Compassion

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We spent a lot of time at the “Making Friends with Death” weekend thinking about compassion and trying to articulate what it is. Is it something we feel — a sort of kinship? a co-wounding? a motivating anger? Is it something we do — listening deeply? giving money to improve an unjust situation? offering our presence and accompaniment? speaking difficult words when they are needed? bringing optimism or hope to a situation?

This quote from Walter Brueggemann‘s The Prophetic Imagination (via Waving or Drowning?) is more food for thought:

Compassion constitutes a radical form of criticism, for it announces that the hurt is to be taken seriously, that hurt is not to be accepted as normal and natural but is an abnormal and unacceptable condition for humanness… Thus the compassion of Jesus is to be understood not simply as a personal emotional reaction but as a public criticism in which he dares to act upon his concern against the entire numbness of his social context… Jesus penetrates the numbness by his compassion and with his compassion takes the first step by making visible the odd abnormality that had become business as usual. Thus compassion that might be seen simply as generous goodwill is in fact criticism of the system, forces, and ideologies that produce the hurt.”

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