What Does Compassion Look Like?


We all want to be the hero. Deep down. If we’re honest.

It’s why superhero movies do so well in the box office. Why the greatest stories all center around a hero’s journey.

Why every child dreams of flying or super strength or powers that will make them invincible, so they can save the world.

When we want to convince someone that a job is worthy, we call them heroes. Police, Fire Fighters, Nurses, Teachers, Military.

If we’re not giving gratitude toward parents, we bolster them with the title of hero. Someone who saves the day.

If they weren’t in the picture, the world would fall apart.

We want to feel special. We want to feel needed. Validated. No one wants to be invisible.

And, there’s nothing wrong with that. Most of the time.

Sometimes, there’s something very wrong with it.

Why do we help someone? What does it mean, to us, when we reach out a hand and pull someone out of despair or poverty?

Is it so we can look good to our friends, our family, ourselves? Is it because we think that, without us, the recipient of our help didn’t stand a chance?

There’s an old song from the music group Audio Adrenaline that has the line “I thought we were the only hope/yeah/The world’s safety rope”.

It goes on to sing about how that isn’t true. We’re not the saviors of the world. We can’t cry out like Mighty Mouse “Here I am to save the day!”, because we’re not.

But, wait a minute? Don’t people actually need saving? Don’t we need to use our resources to go in and rescue children from disease and starvation and slavery and the uncountable evils in this world?

Yes and no. Confused?

No, people don’t need saving. Well, they need saving on a level that no human being can save them. That’s for Jesus, but that’s also for another discussion. An important one, but not this one.

What people need is help and compassion. They need our resources, they need us to teach and to walk beside them, but they don’t need us to save them.

What’s the difference? Are we not saving them either way?

The difference is our motivation and our end goal. Remember the whole-give-a-man-a-fish, teach-a-man-to-fish maxim?

True compassion isn’t about being the indispensable hero. True compassion isn’t about quick fixes and throwing money at a problem or patting someone on the back and telling them It’ll be okay.

What does true compassion look like?

Partnering with someone. Holding your hand out to help them up, but then standing with them for longer than a heartbeat, longer than a photo op, longer than a thank you.

Sometimes it’s getting dirty with them.

All the time, it’s seeing them. Really seeing them. Looking them in the eye, listening to what they are saying. Understanding what it is they actually need, rather than what we think they need.

Honestly, not all of us can do that. Not all of us are equipped to make an actual lasting impact in every life.

There is someone you can help. There is always someone in your life that needs your compassion. Spouse, child, neighbor, barista, waitress, someone.

But, some things are bigger and harder than we’re able to do. We have to help smarter.

I talked about how we can help smarter in an old post here.

And, I talk a lot about organizations that partnering with communities to make lasting changes that mean something. Organizations like Compassion International, International Justice Mission, and LivingBread Ministries.

Am I not just throwing money at the problem if I support them, but don’t actually go and help them?

These organizations aren’t about giving some kids a couple of vaccines and some food. They are about empowering children, empowering families, empowering communities.

And they know how to do it better than your or I do.

If you can go – absolutely go. But don’t go to pat yourself on the back. Don’t go because you want to see how your money is saving children.

Go because you want to be transformed with them. Go because you want to see them succeed. Go because you’re ready to lay everything else in your life aside and live with your brothers and sisters – to mourn with them when they mourn and rejoice with them when they rejoice.

Go because you want them to know that they are not alone, and that you see them. You really see them.

Because, that’s what compassion looks like.


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4 thoughts on “What Does Compassion Look Like?”

  1. Agape love doesn’t seek anything for itself. I remember being so confused by the verse, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” I remember thinking, but how can I not be afraid? My earliest experiences taught me that there was no such thing as unconditional love, that “love” could be swiped out from under you like a rug. One day it hit me. I was afraid of the love toward me getting snatched away. But I had never to fear the love leaving me would be snatched away. Perfect love casts out fear because it doesn’t think of itself. Of course that’s most perfectly embodied in Christ.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amen to that. That verse is my life verse – so much truth and knowledge wrapped up in it. I look at it, also, as in our giving of perfect love. The notion of we as Christians to say we love everyone, unconditionally, but then hold everyone at arm’s length because of various fears we have of their behavior is an example of what this verse is talking about (one of the many applications of its one truth). It is hard for us to fully grasp, but once we do, how transformational it is! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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