The other day a friend was sharing with me the trouble he sometimes has feeling for others the kind of compassion that he knows Jesus would want him to feel.
"I want to love everyone," he said. "But sometimes I'm talking with a person, or just watching someone, or whatever, and I realize that the feelings I'm having toward that person aren't very compassionate. I try, but it's just hard for me sometimes."
That got me thinking about some of the things anyone can do to increase their level of compassion for others.
I think the best way to open up your capacity for love towards others is to really, really listen to them. Listen to their pain, watch for their discomfort, become aware of all the little signs that people are constantly giving off that they’re unsure, afraid, confused, defeated. Allow your love, empathy, and compassion to be triggered by those signs. Let your heart feel the fullness of their suffering.
Contrarily, an outstanding way to develop compassion for others is to observe how strong people are, how valorous, how brave, how confident, how loving, how much fun.
There isn’t a person in this world who, within a minute of being with them, won’t do or say something for which you can genuinely love them. Maybe it will be the way they smile. Maybe you'll be able to appreciate how kindly they treat others. You might appreciate the way they keep their possessions so tidy and organized -- or the way they don’t! All that sort of stuff -- just the regular, everyday things about the way people live -- can be really endearing. All you have to do is watch for it. Noting the unique, careful way people have of taking care of and going about their business is one of the best things about hanging out with people.
People are lovable; and we are, after all, by nature designed to love our own kind. Go with that. Open yourself up the truth that all men and women really are your brothers and sisters.
Finally, develop the practice of viewing people not through your eyes, but through the eyes of God within you. None of us can help but to at least in some degree see others in terms relative to ourselves: Is this or that person better looking than us, more successful than us, happier than us, more or less powerful than us? Making that kind of relative evaluation of others is entirely natural. It’s an instinct. It’s part of what we do when we interact with or observe others. But it tends to make us critical of others, instead of feeling loving towards them.
We see people in relative terms. God, however, sees them in only one way: with love.
With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can see them that way, too.
Let us daily pray to God for the wisdom to see others through His eyes.
Colossians 3:12: Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.