Becoming a Compassionate Presence Through Change and Acceptance
I’ve been thinking lately about change and acceptance, how hard it is to change my habits, my way of thinking and to accept that I need to change not only for the sake of my relationships with others but also for my own well-being.
Accepting that change takes time and requires patience with self and others is like waiting for a flower to blossom. As we all know, a flower can only grow when planted in fertile soil and is nourished with water and sunshine to reach its full fruition. A flower, of course, starts out as a seed and as it grows roots, it begins to take shape and develops into a beautiful creation.
If I carry this flower analogy to myself, I see that my roots need to be grounded in God, and that prayer becomes the seed to nourishing my being. Prayer becomes the bedrock and sustenance for changing and accepting whatever life presents.
What started me thinking about change and acceptance is an encounter I had with someone that I was afraid to enter into dialogue with for fear of making matters worse. I was filled with much anxiety and was avoiding this crucial conversation because I did not want to be vulnerable. Fear was becoming my enemy and I was starting to regress into silence and recoiling in anger. It was time for me to embrace a more loving attitude towards myself and the other person. In the end, we both received the blessing of understanding and a better awareness of building rapport between us. What made this understanding possible for me was changing my attitude from being hurt to being receptive to new possibilities for compassion to grow.
In Joyce Rupp’s book, Boundless Compassion, she writes that “Compassion is a way of life-an inner posture of how to be with suffering, both our own and others, and a desire to move that attitude into action.” She explores three essential components to becoming compassionate—awareness, attitude, and action. The first step in changing ourselves and adopting a compassionate response is to be aware of such attitudes as judgment, intolerance, or impatience. In so doing, Rupp notes that “With our awareness of suffering, and an attitude of wanting to alleviate it, we [can] then choose to act in a positive way for the benefit of all beings.”
Cultivating compassion, of course, is not easy. Instead, as Nouwen states “Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish.” Compassion can be learned though and Joyce Rupp seeks to provide her readers with the tools for being “a compassionate presence” and “to nudge, encourage, and inspire each reader to be a beloved, Christlike presence.”
Practicing compassion with ourselves and with others, as a way of life, has the potential to change us and how we respond to others. When we can come to an awareness that, as Nouwen asserts, “nobody escapes being wounded,” then we can accept that we can be “wounded healers,” extending compassion both to ourselves and others.
So, let us pray for the gift of compassion, to be rooted in God’s love that we may be “a compassionate presence for all who struggle with life’s pain” and hurts.
If you want to be a compassionate presence with God’s people, responding to each person’s joys and sorrows, we invite you to contact us about exploring religious life. We are holding a Come and See retreat at our Columbus Motherhouse, March 13-15, 2020. You can learn more about this retreat here.