Here are some previous thoughts on the subject of Compassion. When you have finished on this page, click Back to look at other topics.


Physiotherapists may be working overtime this next few weeks and not just in Portugal. Their professional organisation has published a guide with hints on avoiding strains and muscle injuries while watching matches on TV. "A bad decision from the ref, a stunning free-kick from Beckham, or most risky of all, a penalty shootout, can provoke reactions among fans that sometimes lead to post-match pain and injury," says the guide. Flailing your arms to protest at a bad tackle risks upper body strains, curling up after an opposition goal is bad for the back and over-zealous goal celebrations could damage every part of your body, the guide warns.

Our well-being can also be adversely affected by watching people nearer to home as they struggle with their lives If we are very close to someone who is in pain, physically or emotionally, it hurts. Jesus knew this kind of pain. He wept when he heard that Lazarus had died (John 11.35). His stomach churned (Mark 1.41) when he was confronted by a man with leprosy.

Jesusí pain led to creative action to deal with the suffering. This may happen for us or we may simply have to stand by, unable to help. Whatís not helpful is to allow ourselves to get so deeply immersed in anotherís pain that we make ourselves incapable of offering creative support or knowing when to keep our distance. Perhaps today if we are involved in the struggles of a friend or family member, we might apply the physiotherapistsí advice to ourselves and remember we need to take care of ourselves as well as to be passionate about how others are faring.


Flailing your arms to protest at a bad tackle risks upper body strains, curling up after an opposition goal is bad for the back and over-zealous goal celebrations could damage every part of your body, the guide warns.

Our well-being can also be adversely affected by watching people nearer to home as they struggle with their lives If we are very close to someone who is in pain, physically or emotionally, it hurts. Jesus knew this kind of pain. He wept when he heard that Lazarus had died (John 11.35). His stomach churned (Mark 1.41) when he was confronted by a man with leprosy.

Jesusí pain led to creative action to deal with the suffering. This may happen for us or we may simply have to stand by, unable to help. Whatís not helpful is to allow ourselves to get so deeply immersed in anotherís pain that we make ourselves incapable of offering creative support or knowing when to keep our distance. Perhaps today if we are involved in the struggles of a friend or family member, we might apply the physiotherapistsí advice to ourselves and remember we need to take care of ourselves as well as to be passionate about how others are faring.


Hillary Clinton, in her autobiography, apparently says she feels sorry for Monica Lewinsky. I doubt if Ms Lewinsky wants Mrs Clintonís pity. However genuine it may or may not be in this case, pity is often patronising and demeaning. It can be used as a way of asserting superiority over another, of distancing oneself from their plight.

When those who wrote about Jesusí life wanted to describe his feelings of pity, they usually used a word in Greek which means a churning of the gut, a physical reaction to the other personís pain. The word also has the associated meaning of anger, fury at the circumstances that have led to their suffering. This is not a way of experiencing pity that separates us from the pitied one, it facilitates identification with the otherís situation and is a spur to action on their behalf.

Perhaps we will meet people today that we pity, or see them either in the flesh or on tv. Letís check that our pity doesnít put distance between them and us but urges us on to do whatever we can to help.


The whole world was hoping the operation to separate the Siamese twins, Laden and Laleh, would be successful. Their death, when it was found their brains had become too fused to part, is a tragedy. But they had willingly embraced the possibility of dying and had chosen to take the risk in preference to carrying on as they were. The ultimate cost of their union was death. We feel, though much less than they, the grief of Laden and Lalehís family and friends.

Each of us also takes a risk, in our case voluntarily, when we allow our lives to become intertwined with anotherís. Any commitment, in marriage, in lifelong partnership, in friendship, in bearing children, runs the risk of pain. Part of ourselves has to die in order that we may properly fulfil our obligations to the one we have chosen to make part of our lives.

Such knowledge is central to the Christian way of seeing things. Godís commitment to the world and to each of us led to Jesusí death on the cross.

But the pain and partial dying that are intrinsic in any committed relationship are risks we willingly take because it is our nature to want to be close to others. Let us celebrate today the people with whom we share our lives and for whom we would sacrifice everything.