Do you have a compassion defense mechanism?
You may think this is a strange question. But stay with me for a minute.
What’s your gut reaction when you’re given an opportunity to be compassionate, but either suspect or are warned that entering the situation may be painful or physically difficult to experience or emotionally disturbing?
Lots of us have a built-in defense mechanism that tells us to run the other way, to avoid the pain, the difficulty. I think it was instilled in most of us in childhood by parents trying to protect us from seeing things or being in situations that were uncomfortable.
It’s probably even one of your life commands: Avoid Painful Situations.
Some choose to disobey that life command, and all of us are thankful they do. EMT’s respond to grisly accident scenes. Doctors and nurses provide care for people suffering terrible diseases. Palliative care and hospice folks help individuals and their families live their final months and days with dignity and good quality of life. People like Mother Teresa care for lepers. And the list goes on.
But never fail to understand — these folks that choose to show compassion pay a price. As they encounter the pain of others, they experience their own pain. And they are limited in how much of another’s pain they can encounter.
I know a number of these people. I’m thankful for them. They’re my heroes.