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Compassion Defined

March 3, 2020

One of my heroes is Paulus Wiratno. 

Paulus is a pastor who labors to help orphans, to free victims of human trafficking, and to share the gospel with millions of people in Indonesia—the fourth most populous country in the world.  

I had the pleasure of writing The Lepers’ Lessons with Paulus and spending intentional time learning from this incredible leader. So today, I want to share with you one of the most important lessons Paulus has taught me over the years: Compassion means you’re willing to be disturbed.

Newsflash: You can serve people without being compassionate. You can even give your time and resources without being compassionate. Because if you’re doing these things out of duty, obligation, or a desire to be recognized, you’re not exercising compassion. True compassion means you’re willing for your life to be disturbed for the good of another person.

So what does this look like practically? Compassion will disturb your life in three areas: your schedule, your wallet, and your emotions.

Compassion disturbs your schedule.
Twice a year, our ADDO team leaves the office for a day of service. This is a valuable time for all of us, and we believe it leaves an impact. But these days don’t require me to be compassionate. They are scheduled into our work calendar. True compassion interrupts my routine, my calendar, and my comfort zone. It’s stopping to help the person pulled over on the side of the road, even though you have somewhere to be. It’s engaging the person who needs to talk for a few minutes, even though you’re late to your next meeting. I’m not saying this is feasible or practical all the time, but compassion will definitely disturb your schedule.

Compassion disturbs your wallet.
Being compassionate means getting involved financially. Sometimes, it requires giving real dollars. It could be giving money away that you had been saving for your next vacation or shifting your budget to intentionally give to a specific person or cause. But other times, compassion is simply doing something less “valuable” with your time (in the business world, we call this opportunity cost).

Instead of doing work that results in a paycheck, compassion propels you to work without expecting anything in return.

Compassion disturbs your emotions.
Have you ever heard someone say, “You’ve been cursed with a good heart”? The idea is that because you care, you do more and give more than the average person. There is a song called “Hosanna” that has a line illustrating this sentiment: “Break my heart for what breaks yours.” The song is written as an appeal to God, asking Him to make you care about the things He cares about. Taken out of a faith context, compassion is being willing to have a broken heart; it’s being willing to have your emotional state disturbed. 

So, here’s today’s question: Are you willing to be disturbed? 

Most of us would say we want to be compassionate. But I don’t think many of us would honestly say we want to be disturbed. I know I don’t like to be disturbed, but in order to be genuinely compassionate, we have to be willing to let our schedules, our wallets, and our emotions be disrupted.

Today, I hope we have the courage to choose compassion for others over comfort for ourselves.


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