Being Compassionate . . . to Ourselves

January 24, 2021



When it comes to acting with compassion, we Mennonites are outstanding. Imitating the example of Jesus’ own compassion, we founded Mennonite Central Committee in the 1920s in order to alleviate the suffering of others. It was compassion that motivated us to go overseas in the PAX program of the mid-20th century, that caused us to set up voluntary service programs so we could help others, and that leads to provide temporary housing for homeless families through Interfaith Hospitality Network. The impulse toward compassion has inspired us to become nurses and doctors, teachers and social workers, therapists and mediators. We are wonderful at helping people on the margins with food, housing, medical care, education, comfort, and peace. We Mennonites have done outstanding work in offering compassion to people outside the church.

However, when it comes to offering compassion to ourselves, we are not so outstanding. Once I attended a day-long workshop led by a Mennonite therapist and pastor. His specialty was working with various kinds of addicts—mostly other Mennonites who were addicted to legal or illegal substances, whether to sugar or pornography, to cocaine or tobacco, to alcohol or overeating. He was a dynamic speaker in the sense that no one in the workshop went to sleep; and he certainly gave us many valuable insights about the dynamics of addiction. But he never talked about compassion, either his own compassion for his clients, or his clients’ compassion for themselves. His underlying message was that addicts should pray harder and work harder to overcome their addiction. The key to overcoming addiction, he said, was sweaty striving.

Bible References

  • Luke 10:25 - 28