Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness,
lowliness, meekness, and patience…
~ Colossians 3:12, RSV

It had been a few years since I had taken a spiritual gifts inventory and I decided I was overdue for a reevaluation. It was no surprise to find that my primary gift is compassion. I’ve gotten the same result on every spiritual gifts assessment I’ve ever taken.

According to the United Methodist Church, “Compassion makes us fundamentally aware of the Christ in others and springs from our desire to care for all of God’s creatures and creation.”[1] Yeah, that’s me! God has gifted me with compassion. I don’t have to work at it. It’s in my spiritual DNA.

It seems to me that compassion is sadly lacking in the world today, as evidenced by the recent horrific news about suicide among gay teens and, of course, the rhetoric about undocumented or “illegal” immigrants. So what hope is there for people who find it difficult to recognize “the Christ in others?” Good news! According to a 2008 article on the website Science Daily, “Cultivating compassion and kindness through meditation affects brain regions that can make a person more empathetic to other peoples' mental states.[2]

As part of the study participants at the University of Wisconsin-Madison were asked to first focus on directing positive energy (wishes for well-being and freedom from suffering) at their own loved ones, and then to direct that same positive energy toward “all beings.”[2] Over time the activity in parts of the brain that respond to emotion showed changes that indicated the subjects were becoming more empathetic.

Compassion is not an option for those of us who claim to follow Christ; it’s an obligation. If you sometimes find it difficult to care about what other people are going through… if you have a tendency to think they brought it on themselves… or it’s not your problem… maybe it’s time to ask the Holy Spirit to give you the gift of Compassion. You may have to work at it a little – spend a little time in meditation; it’s worth it.

[1] Compassion. “Explore the Spiritual Gifts”
[2] University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Compassion Meditation Changes The Brain." ScienceDaily 27 March 2008. 26 October 2010 .

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