Let me tell you about Jane (fictitious name). She is my age and was a class-mate of mine while growing up. She graduated from Millard High School with me. She always impressed me as a rock solid, salt of the earth kind of person. She is happily married and has raised a large family.
I think it was about 1997, I was the chairman of our high school Class of 1967 reunion. I am not a party kind of guy so the assignment did not fit me very well, but I had agreed to do it and set out to do my best. The first thing I did was to form a reunion committee made up of members of my graduating class who still lived in Millard County. We then began meeting, organizing and planning the event. The committee was great help and everyone did their assignments. I learned that a reunion is a big undertaking.
As the day of the reunion approached, I met with Jane one last time to tie up any loose ends. As usual, she did her assignments perfectly but announced to me that she would not be attending the reunion. I asked her, why? After some probing by me, she replied, “I do not want to relive painful memories of my growing up while attending school?” She went on to explain that during her K through 12 school experience, she felt rejected, unappreciated, looked down on and finally was simply treated as if she did not exist by her classmates. That experience crushed her. She did not attend the reunion but stayed home that night with her family a few miles from the reunion meeting hall.
I was shocked by her statement. In High School, I was just your average kid worried about myself. I was a decent student, but more importantly for me, I was an OK athlete and I fit in the student middle-class of popularity. I honestly cannot think of one incident where I mistreat Jane by something I did or said. But, whether I did or did not do something like that, the fact that she felt so strongly about her experience and I was completely unaware of how she felt way back then, is just as condemning about my lack of compassion for her. I have often asked myself how I could I have been so inconsiderate to not see what was going on with people around me. I remember witnessing bullying at times when growing up. It was never dramatic but consisted of individuals or groups teasing and picking on someone. I never stepped in and stopped it or made it my problem. However, I always privately treated those individuals on the bottom of the pecking order with kindness.
I have observed that kids can be mean. Up through early teens it can be words or actions of dislike or bullying. Then the abuse usually takes on a more sinister approach when the Jane’s of the world are simply ignored and treated as if they are invisible. These are the formative years and I have come to believe that most of your self-image and feelings about yourself are based on your interpretation of experiences during those years. So the scars last your whole lifetime.
For me, compassion is the ability to be aware of people, see their value and needs and to go out of my way to help them with physical, spiritual or emotional hurt. Compassion motivates my response of a desire to help the suffering of others. It is easy to have compassion for loved ones. The question is, how do you treat people that do not mean anything to you?
Christ set the perfect example of having compassion. I do not think that tears are necessarily a part of compassion, but the following events in the life of Christ identifies His ability to have compassion on people in a wide set of circumstances. He had compassion for: His friends, His enemies, His followers, children and everybody as is evidenced by His tireless work with the atonement.
Lazarus was His friend and the brother to his good friends Mary and Martha. After Lazarus died, Christ came to them:
33 When Jesus therefore saw her [Mary] weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled…
35 Jesus wept.
36 Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! (John 11:33-36)
The Jews were His adversary. They were themselves splintered with various groups. There were Hebraic Jews who held rigidly to the Law of Moses, Hellenistic Jews believing in Judaism mixed with pagan beliefs, the Sadducees with a formal, lifeless belief including no resurrection and the Pharisees with haughty hypocrisy and assumed holiness. Yet, when Christ rode triumphant into Jerusalem:
41 ¶And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it,….
43 For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, (Luke 19:41-43)
When Christ visited the Nephites, He prayed with the people to the Father and then He arose and directed the people to bring their little children, He sat them down on the ground around him, took them one by one and blessed them:
20 And they arose from the earth [praying],…
21 …he wept, and the multitude bare record of it, and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them.
22 And when he had done this he wept again; (3 Nephi 17:20-22)
The allegory of the tame and wild olive trees written by Jacob quoting Zenos, teaches the atonement in clear symbolism. In the allegory digging, dunging, watering, nourishing, pruning and grafting is the unending work of Christ to gather, heal, unite and save those in his vineyard.
41 And it came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard wept, and said unto the servant: What could I have done more for my vineyard?
I suspect each of you over the years has either been on the receiving end yourself or the dishing-out end of mistreatment toward others, or both. You cannot do anything about the past but I think it is important to stop dishing it out if that is a problem. It is also important to admit your scars if any from receiving mistreatment, and rise above the routine to see yourself as somebody with value and much to offer. Finally, you can develop your compassion for others by looking for and assisting with their physical, spiritual and emotional needs.