I tend to think of myself as a pretty empathetic person. When people start crying, I can’t help but cry, too—even if I’m not feeling the emotions as strongly as them. Tonight as we watched a wildlife video and saw killer whales attacking and killing a baby grey whale as his mother tried to protect him, I cried. It’s one of my most natural responses. As a teenager, this was something I played off as a joke because I thought it was pretty embarrassing, but I’ve come to realize that it may very well be a gift of mine.
July’s ministering principle was about reaching out in compassion. One of the things that I often heard people say was that they didn’t like visiting teaching because they didn’t like the “forced friendship” it created. I fully think this is missing the point of what visiting teaching was; and though visiting teaching has been disbanded, ministering is a new twist on an old program, and our goal is still the same. Reach the one. Bring them in. Compassion is at the heart of this. With compassion, there is no “forced friendship” because compassion is what binds people together. Feeling one another’s pains—lifting one another’s burdens—is what we are supposed to be as disciples of Christ, and if we truly do this, then that friendship will be genuine and real.
As I looked around the homepage of lds.org and mormonnewsroom.org, I realized that the Church has also been putting a lot more emphasis on suicide prevention; so I thought that July’s ministering principle was no coincidence. If you have ever struggled with loneliness or depression, the one thing you need most of all is somebody to show you compassion, to reach down their hand and say, I am here for you. If you have never struggled with such dark feelings, it does not mean that you cannot have compassion nor be that hand. The four ways that the Ensign suggests gaining compassion are prayer, patience, promptings, and being a friend. I would like to suggest another one: compassion journaling.
I truly believe in the power of writing. It not only enlightens your own soul but it can help illuminate other people’s souls as well. That’s why the humanities are called the humanities; it’s all about the human experience. Writing can allow you to begin to understand those experiences. So next time someone confides in you that they’re struggling, and you’re having a hard time relating, sit down and ponder on what they’ve told you for a while. Then begin to explore those feelings. Have you ever felt anything remotely similar? If not, what emotions did this person express to you? Explore those. See what kinds of feelings you can explore within yourself. Even writing down what was told to you can help you see clearer into their lives and give you something more to explore. I promise that as you take time to prayerfully explore the feelings that were confided in you, you will be able to more fully feel compassion for those around you.
Compassion is one of the key elements of humanity; but it is one you must cultivate. Invest the time in cultivating it so that you can foster truer relationships and be a better disciple of Christ.