Everyday Compassion: Simple Ways to Care
“We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked, and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.” - Mother Teresa
What can compassion look like in our everyday lives? Perhaps it simply starts with caring for the people we encounter every day. Here are a few ideas:
Turn off your phone.
On average, consumers in the U.S. are spending five hours every day glued to their smartphones, according to Flurry analytics. Chances are, the numbers are similar in other countries with easy access to mobile phone technology.
While the technology gives us fast access to news or information or photos of friends, it’s not necessarily healthy for our real-life relationships. We can’t be fully present with another person if we’re splitting our attention with a screen. In fact, there’s a word for this: When we’re snubbing someone by paying attention to a phone instead of a person, that’s called phubbing (phone + snubbing).
So try powering down for at least an hour a day. Put away your phone and focus on conversations with people. Ask good questions and listen to the answers. Find out how people are hurting and offer compassionate words of encouragement and healing.
Pray for others.
Henri Nouwen called prayer “the very beat of the compassionate heart”—something that has to be regular and often, not just every once in a while.
Make a list of people you want to pray for. Consider using specific Scriptures as you pray, such as these: Numbers 6:24-26, Ephesians 3:14-19, Philippians 1:9-11, and 2 Thessalonians 3:16. You might use a journal or a calendar to practice the discipline of daily prayer for others, or you might turn your daily steps into a time of intercession.
As you read stories in the news about people in need, add them to your prayer list, too. You may not know them personally, but their lives have intersected with yours through stories. As you pray for others—whether families living as refugees, individuals being exploited through human trafficking, people affected by disasters, or those who’ve experienced other trauma—you will find that God gives you more compassion for them.
Use kind words.
Scripture is filled with reminders that the words we use matter. Colossians 4:6 reminds us to let the words we use “always be gracious,” and 1 Thessalonians 5:11 tells us to “encourage one another and build up each other.”
In the daily stresses of our lives, it’s easy to default to complaining and criticizing others. Compassionate conversation is a choice we make. Try going a full week using only kind, uplifting words. Tell a coworker that you appreciate a job well done. Give a child a reason he or she is special and valued. Find a way to thank a family member for the little things that often go unnoticed.
If you need some motivation, try throwing a little money in a jar every time you hear unkind words coming out of your mouth. At the end of the week, use that money to do something kind for someone else. Then try again the next week with the goal of an empty jar!
An abridged version of this post appeared in the Summer 2018 issue of NCM Magazine. Click HERE to read!