In the very first week of this series I discussed the notion that the feeling of compassion "commonly gives rise to an active desire to alleviate another's suffering." So where does that leave us now? We've spent the last few weeks discussing ways to increase our ability to feel compassion. But obviously that is not enough. We cannot leave it there. It is not enough to merely feel, for true compassion acts.
There are lots of starting points for action, and no two will look quite the same. God has placed us each in unique circumstances and given us unique perspectives. We will all express compassion to others in different ways. Rather than spend time discussing the endless opportunities you have to show compassion, I want to talk about another tool that might free you up to do more for others.
I shared with you HERE about my belief that the imagination is a great teacher of compassion. It can enrich our understanding and propel us into reality. In that post I suggested imagining the circumstances, hurts and needs of others so that we are inspired to be compassionate. This week I want to touch very briefly on the practice of re-imagining our own lives. Specifically, imagining less in our lives so that we are freed up to do more in the lives of others.
Yes, I am talking about "stuff" here. Giving stuff to others isn't necessarily the only way to demonstrate compassion, but it is a very large element. If we want to be ready to demonstrate compassion to those God places in our paths we need to be prepared. The problem is that many of our resources are tied up not in transforming the lives of others, but keeping our own lives plump.
We live in the midst of an intensely materialistic culture that preaches the "need" of things...MORE things...NEW things...the BEST things and LOTS of them. Navigating our daily lives becomes increasingly confusing. We become desensitized. Our standards change. We are blinded to the extravagance of it all because it is so...normal.
And it is so easy to acquire things. Everyone else is doing it. In fact, many are acquiring much more than we are, so we compare ourselves to them to make us feel better about what we have...or don't have. This is why our imagination is so essential. When we are saturated in an environment that tells us this is just the way life is, we must use the power of our imaginations to help us escape that trap and envision something better.
As I state above, my point here is not to compare ourselves with any other person. I am asking us to use our imaginations to imagine a simpler, purer, nobler version of our own lives. This is one of those tricky topics where there is no one size fits all solution. And my goal is not to prescribe, but to inspire. To inspire each of us to look at our lives and imagine less. Less clothing. Less indulgent food. Less entertainment. Less space. Less...you name it.
And YOU must be the one to name it in your own life. For some imagining less might lead to a radical selling of possessions. For others this might be choosing to forgo a small something you want so that you can instead give someone something they need.
This is also not meant to be a tool to police ourselves...I will discuss fatal abuses of compassion more in depth next week. But for now I will say that this is meant to be a freeing exercise, leading to contentment and peace. So I ask you to pause momentarily now, and throughout your day to being searching and inquiring of God where you might imagine less in your life so that you are more open to compassion.
Consider what would happen if we were each to individually work to change our posture? What if rather than living our lives climbing a scale that tells us we are entitled to increase as we progress, we chose to decrease? What if we made active decisions that kept our lives quiet and modest? Just imagine what we would then be able to do for others in the world.
Imagining less for yourself frees you up to act more compassionately toward others. And less is not just more for others. It is more for you too.