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Having A Heart Of Compassion

Updated on June 6, 2014

Scientists believe that compassion is a natural instinct in adults and even in babies. In a recent study, they found that infants' pupils would dilate when they saw someone in need, and shrink when that person was helped.

The Bible is replete with stories of compassion, especially on the part of Jesus. On one occasion when the crowds thronged after Jesus and His disciples so they barely had a chance to eat, the disciples urged Him to send the people away so they could buy food, but Jesus called his disciples to him and said, "I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way" (Matthew 15 : 32). Jesus went on to work one of his biggest miracles - multiplying the loaves and fishes - and fed over five thousand people.

Today, Jesus is no longer here on earth, but He expects us to have compassion on the poor and the hungry, as He did. Some people make it a habit to feed the homeless, or donate money and clothing to people in places that have been struck by disaster. I guess we have all done these things, but there are other ways to show compassion. It might be just listening to a co-worker who is going through a rough time in her marriage and offering a word of encouragement, paying for someone's lunch or helping a harried, young mother on the bus struggling to manage three small children.

Examples from my life

My mother was a very compassionate woman. In the early days of my marriage, I made it a habit to visit her everyday on my way home from work. I was an only child, my mother was a widow and I expected her to be lonely with me not being there. But most days I would meet her either cooking or serving dinner to some of the poor, elderly folks in the neighborhood. And she seemed very happy doing it.

I think I may have inherited some of her compassion. About a week after I began my first teaching job, I was invited to have lunch with the female teachers. I gladly accepted, but after a few days, I noticed that one of the teachers always ate alone. One day I invited her to join us. She hesitated then looked away and mumbled something. It was then I noticed the hearing aid in her ear. She was deaf! She saw me staring and explained that she became deaf after falling and hitting her head when she was a child. I ate lunch with her that day and for several days following. Then I invited her to join the other teachers and myself. She was a bit shy at first, but soon her confidence grew and she became one of us.

When I was growing up in Trinidad, and there was a death in my village, the neighbors would take food supplies to that home, enough to last several days. But they didn't stop there. Some of them would stay with the family for a few days, helping to cook, clean, run errands and do whatever they could to soften the period of mourning. When my mother passed away, the compassion I received from friends and relatives helped to ease the pain of my grief.

The scientific component

Research has found that compassion has mental and physical benefits and is necessary to our survival. According to research, compassion benefits us in the following ways:

It speeds up recovery from disease, boosts our immune system and may even lengthen our lifespan. Researchers at the University of North Carolina found that compassionate people, who focused more on satisfying others rather than themselves, had lower levels of inflammation which leads to cancer and other diseases.

Giving to others increases our sense of well-being more than when we receive. This is true not only of adults, but also of children.

It protects against stress. People who volunteer for the sake of helping others, and not for self-serving reasons, have lower stress levels.

It increases social connectedness, which, researchers have found, reduces anxiety, depression and raises self-esteem. We know that lonely people often become depressed.

Be the good you would like to see

Volunteering as an act of compassion

As a Christian, I tithe, but I also give of my time and money to other projects. Some people get a lot of joy out of volunteering at hospitals, schools, churches, libraries and even pet shops. You may not think of volunteering as an act of compassion, but you are actually fulfilling a need without being compensated for it. Most volunteers report a sense of satisfaction and personal achievement from seeing the results of their work.


Share your acts of compassion

In what ways are you compassionate

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So what is compassion?

Compassion goes beyond the sadness you feel or the tears you shed when you hear of someone's suffering. It is the feeling that evokes a response to that suffering. It may be giving your last dollar to someone on the street; housing your neighbor and her family when their home is damaged; giving food to elderly neighbors when they drop by; reaching out to someone who is isolated and bringing her into your circle of friends. Or you may have the compassion of Mother Teresa who gave up a comfortable life to live among the poor and take care of them. And what can beat the compassion Jesus showed when the crowds thronged Him, hungry for spiritual as well as material bread. Whatever you do, as long as you do it selflessly and without seeking attention, you have a heart of compassion. And God sees it.


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    • quildon profile image

      Angela Joseph 3 years ago from Florida

      I think most of us don't always "inconvenience" ourselves either. Not all of us can be a Mother Teresa or a Martin Luther King, but there are some times and some situations that must move us to compassion and then it becomes easy to "inconvenience" ourselves. Thanks for stopping by.

    • savvydating profile image

      Yves 3 years ago

      A great reminder to us all to go out of our way and "inconvenience" ourselves for the sake of another. In your case, giving probably comes naturally, but for many of us, that can be a difficult choice to make. I like to think I am very compassionate, but do I always inconvenience myself? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Beautiful article, quildon.

    • quildon profile image

      Angela Joseph 3 years ago from Florida

      Hey, LadyFiddler, so nice to know you are a Trini. You're right, we have become selfish, caring only for ourselves and what we can get out of everything. But every now and again we hear of someone who does an unselfish deed. And we're especially reminded of that today as we remember the horrific events of 9/11 and those brave men and women who risked their lives to save people they didn't even know.

    • LadyFiddler profile image

      Joanna Chandler 3 years ago from On planet Earth

      Hi Quildon I am a Trini and my dearest those days you spoke about have long gone. Everyone now is selfish and heartless or so it seems. We often wonder where has the love gone? How can we say we love Jesus when we cannot even help those around us or love them?

      I often get so upset when i think of selfish people that only cares about themselves and no one else. It is indeed heart rendering but everyone wants blessings from God, they want him to do great things for them. Yet no one wants to store up blessings in heaven by doing a kind deed.

      Our hearts should be big enough to hold everyone in it , not just the healthy and the rich but the poor, suffering and dying and everything is not about money. A kind word or a plate of food can also go a long way, when will people get it ? I just do not know.

      Thanks for sharing :)

    • quildon profile image

      Angela Joseph 3 years ago from Florida

      Thank you, my dear.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Very lovely story about compassion. Thanks for this wonderful hub. Voted up.

    • quildon profile image

      Angela Joseph 3 years ago from Florida

      Thanks for the kind comment, torrilyn!

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 3 years ago

      This was a great article indeed. It helps one to self reflect on what we have done to help others lately. Voted up and useful.

    • quildon profile image

      Angela Joseph 3 years ago from Florida

      And thanks for dropping by and leaving your comment. So many people don't realize that when we show compassion to others we receive benefits in return.

    • profile image

      yourhealthmatters 3 years ago

      This article is beautiful. Just reaching out to someone can make all the difference. May we all remember this. Thank you for writing this article.

    • quildon profile image

      Angela Joseph 3 years ago from Florida

      Thank you so much, tobusiness. You are right, things have changed even in the Caribbean and people have become very selfish and greedy. But yet again, like you said, we don't hear much about acts of compassion, because the news is more concerned with reporting the ugly, sensational things. It's so sad.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Quildon, this is a very important article. A society without compassion is a doomed society. I believe many people are suffering from compassion fatigue, we are all compassionate beings at heart, but our compassion can become eroded. We should actively foster compassion in children at an early age, my early experience of growing up in the Caribbean was rather like yours, but even there things have changed. Empathy for others seem to be less apparent, we seem to have created a society where selfishness is more valued than compassion, it's all about

      I like to believe that although we may not see much evidence of compassion in society, it is simply less reported. A great though-provoking hub, nicely done.

    • quildon profile image

      Angela Joseph 3 years ago from Florida

      @manatita44 Thanks for your comment.

      @lrc815 Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 3 years ago from london

      So true, Lrc7815.

      Truly wise statement on Quildon's Hub. Salaam!

    • lrc7815 profile image

      Linda Crist 3 years ago from Central Virginia

      This was a delight. Compassion is often misunderstood as weakness but I believe it makes us stronger. When we are able to feel for others, it opens our hearts and makes more room for the most precious things of life. Beautiful job.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 3 years ago from london

      A very touching article and video. More of these are needed ,,, opportunity too raise the consciousness, the only way to heal the Form. God bless you on this Sunday. Shalom!

    • quildon profile image

      Angela Joseph 3 years ago from Florida

      Thanks, Inspired Heart. If only we would all follow Jesus' example the world would be a better place.

    • Inspired Heart profile image

      Yvette Stupart 3 years ago from Jamaica

      Thanks for a beautiful hub. Jesus was a true example of showing compassion as you outlined. It means moving out of our comfort zones and reaching out to touch the lives of others in practical ways.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      Dear quildon,

      Such a beautiful article here. It is unthinkable to go through our lives without compassion for others. Thank you for sharing your wonderful stories of your mother and yourself here. Beautiful examples of compassion being lived out in this brutal world. I truly believe each one of us can show compassion to another one each and every day.

      Up and more, pinning, tweeting, Googling and sharing

      God bless you