Created for compassionate relationships

Humans are created to be in relationships. When babies are born, they are helpless, fully dependent on the compassion of others to care for their basic needs for food, comfort and care. 

As we grow older, we learn to do things for ourselves and become less dependent on the compassion of others. Yet even adults have a need for compassion and relationships with others.

As a society, we live life to the fullest of our Creator’s intent when we are in compassionate relationships and connected with one another. Being in compassionate relationships does, however, mean at times suffering when our neighbors are suffering. In fact, the definition of compassion includes this concept of relating to the suffering of another.

Webster’s dictionary defines compassion as a “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” Humans are created with this sense of compassion. Compassion stems from a recognition of one’s own humanity, that we are all fallible and imperfect and are in need of others for our very existence. Having compassion means being honest and aware of our own feelings of suffering and pain, and how they are similar and related to others.

Yet as humans we do not like being uncomfortable, so we tend to avoid feelings of pain or suffering, which sadly often means we do not like to focus on what we have in common with others, especially others who are different and not as close to us.

When we learn of the struggles of people of different race, ethnicity, religious belief, gender orientation or economic status, we think twice about getting too close in relationship because focusing on what we have in common with others may mean recognizing some of our own shortcomings and pain.

We are willing to endure such feelings when it is our own family or close friends who are suffering because of our close relationship with them, but we often are less likely to be compassionate toward people with whom we are not as close. Instead, feelings of fear and insecurity often hinder genuine compassion and cause us to put up walls, both literally and figuratively, to prevent being in close relationship with ‘the others’ in our world.

Unfortunately, when we build walls and barriers we prevent opportunities of true relationship and compassion to occur. In essence, we prevent ourselves from fully living as our Creator intended us to live, in compassionate relationships with one another, truly valuing the dignity and worth of each person.

Over the last two years, I have had the privilege of participating in the Claremont Interfaith Council (CIC). Through this council I have experienced a glimpse of what these compassionate relationships look like in action. CIC is made up of leaders from many faith traditions (Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist).

We differ greatly in our understanding of God, doctrine and practices of faith, yet we choose to not let those differences divide us. Instead, we seek to foster mutual respect and dialogue between our diverse faith traditions. We worship and pray together at a Thanksgiving Eve Interfaith service. We celebrate our Claremont High School graduates in sponsoring the annual baccalaureate service. We unite in efforts to support recent resettlement of Syrian refugees in our community.

I also have the privilege of being a part of the Claremont Interfaith Working Group for Middle East Peace that sponsors an annual Interfaith Walk For Peace. This year’s walk is Sunday, October 16, starting at 4 p.m. at City of Knowledge.  Please join us in living out our Creator’s intent by practicing compassionate relationships with one another.


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