I was raised in a family that valued hard work and a boot-strap ethic. You know the boot-strap ethic: pull yourself up by your bootstraps. No one is going to help you, be self-reliant!
It’s a good ethic and I still carry parts of it with me. However, there are some problems with it.
- It assumes that you have boots and no one is keeping the boots away from you.
- It assumes ability and mental health.
- It doesn’t look at the larger picture of systemic oppression and privilege.
- Compassion is often seen as weak.
Violence is easy. If you hit me, I hit you back. It’s an eye for an eye. It’s why war is so easy and profitable. You can load war into a gun and shoot it at someone else.
But compassion? That’s hard. There’s no easy solution to having it for someone else.
Compassion involves listening and understand another’s story, a story that will be way outside of your comfort zone.
It acknowledges difference and diversity.
It knows that not everyone has boots and some people are keeping boots away from others.
There are differences in ability and mental health.
There’s a larger picture of power and privilege that is always at play.
This makes compassion the hardest thing to do. Yet it’s also the most powerful. It bonds people together. It builds instead of destroys. It creates life.
Compassion is the strongest thing in the universe and it’s the hardest for us to arrive at and keep at that place. It’s often counter-intuitive.
I was raised in a family that valued hard work. And I’m raising my kids with the same, but the boot-strap ethic is gone. Instead, I hope to give them an ethic of compassion. The hardest and most powerful thing in the world.
Love God and your neighbor as yourself. Both involve loving something other than yourself and your wants and needs. It’s easy to understand but the hardest thing to live out. It’s why I’m in church. I know I need to grow in this and I need a community to keep me accountable and learn from.
Church introduced me to stories not my own. College did the same. My heart of stone has been transformed into a beating heart of love. However, I’m now less tolerant with those who are like I started out being. So I’m not there, I’m a work in progress, and a hypocrite on many levels.
Al Palmer stated, “Conservative minded individuals often accuse compassionate liberals of condoning irresponsibility. They believe that you should not feel sorry for someone who lays around the house all day and refuses to get a job. Instead, you should make conditions for them so bad, that they will become responsible, i.e., get a job.”
Compassion is often equated with “feeling sorry for.” he said and then stated “Separating compassion from responsibility is difficult.”
This reminded me of when Jesus “The way is narrow.”
I keep falling off. Yet I’m convicted that this is the only path for me and that’s what keeps me coming back again and again.