In the Gospels we find many stories of Jesus showing compassion to the sick and the downtrodden of society as he healed them or welcomed them into his circle. Christians believe that their attitudes and actions must reflect the kindness, mercy and compassion of Jesus, and the love of God for everyone, with that special concern for the poor and the oppressed.
‘Compassion’ is a much stronger word than ‘sympathy’. It is more than ‘feeling sorry for someone’. If you have compassion for someone you step into their shoes, you share their experiences and sufferings, and you have a desire to support them and, where possible, to act on their behalf. If you read Colossians chapter 3 verse 12 you will see that Paul links the idea of compassion firmly with kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, and this shows you how what might be described as ‘acts of compassion’ should be carried out.
Christians have always had to wrestle with the problem of how a loving God could allow there to be evil and suffering in the world. There is no simple response to this question, but part of the answer is that God the Father is not passively observing the suffering of the world from the outside. He identified with human suffering in the life and death of Jesus and continues to work to transform the sufferings of the world through the work of the Holy Spirit.
Compassion in School
- In the school community compassion means showing kindness and true respect to each other. It is related to the way in which new people are welcomed into the school family and nurtured and supported. How is this worked out in your situation?
- How are members of the community supporting each other through difficult times, such as bereavement, and how are those who struggle supported and included?
- How do you enable pupils to demonstrate compassion?
- How are pupils enabled to understand the importance of ensuring that everyone feels included and not marginalised? How is this put into practice?
- Do the stories used in worship include ones which express Jesus’ compassion towards the sick and suffering? How are pupils helped to reflect on these stories?
- Are pupils encouraged to pray for those in difficult circumstances e.g. at times of natural disaster? Is there both prayer and positive action?
- Compassion is also shown in the way a school responds at special times in the calendar—how is Remembrance Day marked? Is there an emphasis on reconciliation and healing of wounds?
- How do you ensure that ‘praying for others’ is not just saying appropriate words and then moving on?
- The international dimension of compassion is not only about fundraising in response to regular charity initiatives (although this can be very important), but also in forming close links with an overseas partner, such as an African school, and coming to an understanding of their joys and needs through personal communication, sharing stories, and an understanding of their real-life context. What do you do?
- Is there material available in school to support children in times of bereavement?
- Do curriculum areas explore the way in which people can be affected by larger decisions e.g. Eco issues?
- Are pupils given the opportunity to enter empathetically into the lives of others in different places, situations or times e.g. in AT2 in RE or in drama?
- When do pupils get the opportunity to meet with visitors who have important stories to tell e.g. charity representatives?
- How does the school demonstrate compassion? Are there more things which can be done, (such as hosting parenting programmes for the neighbourhood), or new relationships which can be created with local communities (such as those in sheltered housing schemes or night shelters)?
- Does the school leadership model compassionate caring?
- How do you initiate support for local and international charities? What criteria do you use? How do you maintain momentum?
- Are tough decisions made and communicated compassionately?