Sunday, February 10, 2013

Compassion, Love and Goodness

You may call God love,
you may call God goodness.
But the best name for God is compassion.
--Meister Eckhart

Love and compassion. Aren't they the same? What is Meister Eckhart trying to tell us? Does it have to do with more than loving, and more than just goodness?

Such were the initial thoughts I had when seeing that quote.

  • Com-passion.
  • With-passion. Or better yet
  • Passion with....
  • And even further- Suffering with others

To have compassion then is to feel someone else's hurts and pains.
It is not to be condescending,  or to look down on them.
It is the depth of sympathy-

  • Sym-pathy
  • Sym- together
  • Pathos- feelings
  • To be in a community of feeling, finding direction and hope- 
  • together.

We all suffer at one time or another, hence we are all in need of compassion.

And because we all suffer- we also know what others may need in the midst of their suffering.

But God? Compassion? Where is Meister Eckhart going with that.

Of course, God is surely more than just love. Even saying that God is love is more than what we mean by love. Compassion? An ability to suffer with us? A willingness to walk beside us?

Oh, the problem with trying to describe such things with mere words. We think we have it down. We think we can say it- and it is so. But the reality is that if we could reduce such powerful reality into words, it would lose its ability to make a difference in our lives. To come to compassion is more than we can describe.

Sadly, many people wouldn't equate God with compassion- any more than  they do with love. Not that Old Testament image of a God (the meanest one on the block) throwing lightning bolts, and floods, and plagues and the rest of the ways God seemingly made people stop and pay attention.

Compassion? Doesn't sound like it.

But-compassion and sympathy is not "lowering" ourselves to someone else's pains or suffering. Yes, it is to walk with them in the midst of it, but it is also to walk in a way that pulls them up to a higher level. It gets them out of their misery by being able to share it. It doesn't take it away, it shares it, supports it, leads into a different way of dealing with it.

It is walking with them through hell. But we don't stop in the midst of hell. That only lengthens it, makes it worse. We keep walking- and them walking with us- so neither of us gets stuck in the mud and muck of hell.

Now I can begin to see how God can be described as compassion. AA's 2nd Step says
Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
In other words, we begin to believe that there is a way through- and out of- hell, with the help of a power greater than ourselves. Part of that is the compassionate support we can receive from whoever or whatever may be our Higher Power, God.

God is not reaching down to us- but into our hell with us. Just as we are called to do with others. The result is compassion.

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