He may well be the most compassionate person I’ve ever met, because an hour with Bradley (yes, that’s his real name) further clarified my perception of compassion.
He inspired me as he shared with me his past, having been a victim of the stolen generations. Yet, truly a litany of things were stolen from him, even to the present day, and reality dawns; that will last long into the foreseeable future. Rage would certainly be understandable, and the seeking of vengeance, too. But Bradley knew there was no point to such responses of pride. He even said that he must watch his pride, for in that is fuel for the wrong decision. Bitterness begets hatred is the understanding he claimed.
In the background of his person are his ancestors, the elders of his land, and his family members. He is not one person, but the fullest representation of his people. He spoke a lot about the warrior, an-eye-for-an-eye aboriginal justice, and the potency of his people, should they wish to fight an oppression that continues today. But he said, instead, the desire for multiculturalism burned within him — to see people of all backgrounds share in an equality of dignity.
And then God showed me something important about him. I could tell he saw into people and could feel others’ pain.
Bradley showed me that compassion given makes people bigger; received it makes people better. He regularly referred to his gift, and before we finished chatting I said his gift was compassion. He heartily agreed. His compassion, for all he had personally suffered, had made him a bigger person.
Using my own metaphors, this is what Bradley taught me about compassion:
Compassion sprouts out of soil fertile with suffering, where humble responses abide.
Compassion emerges when negative responses to suffering are futile, where despair is not an option. His suffering and the suffering of his people are constant, as much as it is real. The history will never simply go away. Unless it’s embraced, it will embitter him.
Neither anger nor despair are an option, for his entire person is a nation. He cannot afford to capitulate. So, what happens when we’re forced to hope in the context of suffering?
Compassion makes us see truth with clarity, as we experience grace aboundingly. Compassion helps us see more readily others in their suffering.