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Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.
There are confessable agonies, sufferings of which one can positively be proud. Of bereavement, of parting, of the sense of sin and the fear of death the poets have eloquently spoken. They command the world’s sympathy. But there are also discreditable anguishes, no less excruciating than the others, but of which the sufferer dare not, cannot speak. The anguish of thwarted desire, for example.
He who speaks from the lips chatters. He who speaks from an empty mind adds confusion to discord. He who speaks from a full mind feeds the minds of men. He who speaks from his heart wins the confidence of mankind. But he who speaks from his soul heals the heartbreaks of a world and feeds the hungry, starving souls of men. He can dry the tears of anguish and pain. He can bring light, for he will carry light.
To understand is nothing, but to be understood-that is the problem and the source of anguish. The soul throbs and would have the other know-but can not and feels isolated. Then come gestures, words, awkward explanations and material symbols for imponderable outbursts of feeling-and the soul despairs.
All the books on my shelves, when I would go to them to look for help with my anguish, they all just seemed so crass. They didn’t get it. Those books don’t understand. Nobody understands. The universe, nobody understands my agony, or my questioning, and it’s this shift in what in the world around us could possibly be meaningful or helpful.
We must be able to appreciate and enjoy the places where we tarry and yet pass on without anguish when we are called elsewhere. In our spiritual development we are often required to pull up roots many times and to close many chapters in our lives until we are no longer attached to any material thing and can love all people without any attachment to them.