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Compassion: A Guiding Principle

Link to the link-up

When Lizzi first invited me to join in the 1000 Voices of Compassion event, I did not jump in with enthusiasm.  I doubted, wondering if "compassion" was code for political policies or social agendas that I did not support.  Fortunately, I came to my senses and realized that, yes, I most definitely did want to join with other bloggers in writing about compassion.  Compassion is an admirable character trait, and one I hope to develop more fully.  My mom was my first teacher of compassion.  I've written about her teaching methods in a previous post.   

I thought back to the covenant I made when I was baptized in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  These words from the 18th chapter of Mosiah in the Book of Mormon came to mind:

 8 . . . as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; 

 9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death. . . . 

 10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?

I have promised to "mourn with those that mourn" and "comfort those that stand in need of comfort" and to "stand as [a witness] of God at all times and in all things."  How could I even think to pass up the opportunity to blog about compassion?

I'm not an etymologist, but I do find it interesting that the word compassion starts with "compass."  When I think of a compass, I think of:  1. a tool to help me know which way to go or 2. a tool that draws a circle around a fixed point.  Either way of thinking about it leads me to Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is a perfect example of how to live, the ultimate example of compassion.  As I center my life around Him, I will be led to develop a more compassionate nature.  

Jesus Christ gave the parable of the Good Samaritan (found in Luke chapter 10) in answer to the question, "Who is my neighbor?"  As with most parables, the tale itself is simple, but the meaning runs deep.  I highly recommend this article if you are interested in exploring the parable further. 

After relating the parable, Jesus asked the man, "Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?" When the man responded, "He that shewed mercy on him," Jesus counseled, "Go, and do thou likewise."

Compassion is part of love, and is more than just a feeling. Compassion motivates us to action, to “bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light.” It can come in various forms:  meals taken to a new mom or to a family with a child who had surgery, housework and childcare given for a woman with a high-risk pregnancy, visitors for a lonely elderly man, a listening ear, prayers in light of a sudden health concern, or in myriad other ways. 

Why are we sometimes like the priest or the Levite, passing by without acting?  Perhaps it is fear.  Perhaps it is ignorance.  Perhaps it is feeling small and unable to make a difference.  We must be wise, but we also must help. 

King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon talks about compassion in the 4th chapter of Mosiah:

26 . . . I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.

27 And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.

The idea of pacing ourselves, as in a race, reminds me of these Bible verses in Hebrews 12:

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 
2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus is the author and finisher.  Our little efforts can make a difference, but they cannot make all the difference.  His infinite effort can.   We cannot right all wrongs.  He can, and we will eventually see the effects of his sacrifice.  We cannot eliminate all suffering.  He is the King of Peace.  We cannot help everyone.  His Atonement is infinite and eternal.  All will be right in the end. 

We need Him.  We can follow His example of compassion, and have faith that even though we cannot do everything, He will make our offering sufficient.  We don’t have to save the world; He has already done that.  Our job is much, much easier:  Love the Lord, and love our neighbor as ourself.  Compassion is a guiding principle of that love. 


  1. Love this! King Benjamin's address was life changing for me as I searched for truth. So many questions answered.

    1. It was very difficult to just use a snippet of his address; the entire thing is so good!

  2. While your entire post is good, I especially like the last one. It certainly takes the pressure and worry off to know that our best is all we can do. He's got this covered.

    1. I find it helps me to remember that it is not my job to save the world. It is easy to have feelings of compassion become feelings of guilt, and that's not the way it is supposed to work. I can only do what I can, and pray hard, having faith that in His due time things will be made right.

  3. I enjoy reading your posts based on your faith, Kristi. I learn so much about you, and I'm so glad you chose to write your compassion post from this perspective. The Good Samaritan is indeed apt.

    1. Thank you for this, Sarah. My faith means a lot to me. In sharing these kinds of posts, I always hope I can portray a non-pushy, welcoming glimpse into how my faith shapes my outlook. Comments like yours make me think maybe I managed to do that.

  4. Excellent post, Kristi. I think we are often like the Levite or the priest because we assume someone else will take care of it. We have to BE that someone else.

    1. Good point, and I think that is where the feelings of inadequacy come in. "Surely, someone else is in a better position to help than I am. Someone else has more experience, knowledge, etc. to better help." Perhaps, but that someone might be thinking the same thing. I heard a quote once in one of our church's General Conferences: "First observe, then serve." If we see a need, we should do what we can to fill it.

  5. Beautiful words - Compassion is linked with the Golden Rule - its that simple!

    1. I agree that compassion begins when we can imagine ourselves in another's position.

  6. Wonderful post Kristi. Compassion is made of two words; first, "com" meaning with and passive (Late Middle English) comes from the sense of ‘being acted upon’, so compassion (Middle English) is literally ‘suffering with’ someone. It is a powerful word. Thanks for sharing your beautiful thoughts.

  7. What a beautiful post! You really are a good writer.

  8. I also love when your posts come from your knowledge and understanding of your faith. Living as Christ lived is certainly the best model for compassion. The Good Samaritan, too, is a perfect example. I think what I like best is looking at it as bearing another's burden WITH them as Simon helped to carry the Cross. These are beautiful ideas here - thanks!

    1. I don't know if you went to the link of the article about the Good Samaritan, but it talks about an interpretation of the parable of the Good Samaritan. According to the article, the Good Samaritan is Jesus Christ himself. It certainly gave me much to think about! You are right that Simon helping to carry the cross is a great example of compassion!

    2. You know, I didn't click that link, Kristi, but I'm doing it right now. It makes perfect sense.

  9. If only we could all live by the Golden Rule. "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." the world would be a better place.

  10. Wonderful post, Kristi. So much love.


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