The scriptures record that, just before raising the dead son of a grief-stricken widow, Jesus “had compassion on her” (Luke 7:13). Compassion is an important aspect of Christlike love. It is the ability to feel what another is feeling—and then to help.
Paul described a congregation of compassionate Saints: “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Cor. 12:26).
When we have compassion, we open ourselves to feel with others their sorrows and joys. Sometimes what they say may be hard to hear, especially when they are feeling pain. And often we cannot do anything to make that pain go away. In such instances, just listening can be a form of genuine compassion.
A man whose young wife died tells how he needs this form of compassion. “If I say, ‘That reminds me of how [my wife] used to … ,’ my comment sometimes causes an uncomfortable silence. I want to talk about her. Sometimes I just need to ramble. Yes, it is painful, but loneliness and isolation are much worse. Allow me to remember and cry” (Kevin Fitzwater, Ensign, June 1992, page 57).
• Think of a time when someone really listened to you. How did it make you feel? How do you feel toward that person?
Sometimes compassionate listening can lead to action. Sister Lois Porter, a Relief Society president in Salt Lake City, was visiting an elderly woman in the hospital. “I asked what I could do for her, and she answered, ‘Nothing.’ But when I asked her what was worrying her, she told me she was worrying about her lawn and her cat. I would never have known that, but I was then able to water her lawn and feed her cat for her.”
When we know another’s needs, we must act on that knowledge. The Apostle James said: “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
“And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?” (James 2:15–16).
A group of sisters in Caracas, Venezuela, acted with compassion when they visited a nursing home as part of a service project. They took cookies and a drink to share with the women there. But when they saw the women—with disheveled hair and nearly without clothing, slumped in chairs with expressionless faces—they felt what the women must be feeling and acted immediately. They gathered clothing and helped dress the women. Then they cleaned faces and bodies and combed hair. After bringing dignity to these women, they held hands with them, talked with them, and shared their refreshments.
Who could benefit from your compassionate listening today?
Who could use your actions of compassion today?