Five Books on Developing Compassion
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines compassion as “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.”
This season of a pandemic and heightened conversation on race has revealed a need to revisit compassion. Our culture has overtly placed a hypersensitivity to rightness before understanding.
Often, in volatile issues, you can prove your point of view only to miss a more significant underlining problem that requires understanding. Compassion is messy because it means that I have to move towards another person to see their experience. That includes confronting our blind spots and misperceptions.
You may sense your need to grow in compassion and understanding of people. I want to share five books that could offer you a fresh outlook on compassion in this season:
Nouwen connects the suffering of Jesus to his ministry to others. This classic universally shapes ministry and leadership. I loved the examples he offers, especially when a young pastor visits a farmer in the hospital. The example shows all too often how we miss opportunities to have compassion. As a preview, here’s a quick excerpt:
Compassion is born when we discover in the center of our own existence not only that God is God and man is man, but also that our neighbor is really our fellow man.
Memoirs invite us in the journeys of others to see ourselves. Amena Brown, spoken word poet, calls us to experience God’s healing by sharing her own story. This book confirmed a repeated affirmation for me; the gospel of Jesus must replace the lies we believe with His truth. I love this starting place for compassion for ourselves when Brown says:
God sent a perfect Son to take on all the failings of the entire world. He knows Jesus would get it right. He knew Jesus could take all these failed human beings and make it so we could be called righteous. There is no rock bottom, no personal disaster, no amount of utter failure where Jesus doesn’t walk with us.
Dr. Habecker provides wisdom, insight, and skills for more compassionate leadership. When it comes to leadership, we can have a proclivity towards the analytical, quantitative, and logical. Yet, when we develop soft skills that allow us to build a culture of trust. Check out this thought from Dr. Habecker:
Leaders who have found a way to engage their own hearts, as well as the hearts of those they lead, are more capable of understanding themselves and the persons they lead at higher and more authentic levels.
Sherry Turkle, a renowned media scholar, has brought tremendous research and insight into how technology has affected our relationships. In this book, along with Alone Together, prophetically has spoken to problems we face today. Reclaiming Conversation bridges together the analytic and feeling for us to move forward more compassionately. See this thought from her:
When you have a growing awareness for how much you don’t know about someone else, you begin to understand how much you don’t know about yourself.
Steve and Becky Harling served at Browncroft Community Church, the church I serve. Their book Listen Well, Lead Better gives ten practical skills of listening and leadership. A growing degree of compassion results from a more substantial amount of listening. The Harling’s years of experience will challenge no matter what level of leadership you find yourself. Check out this excerpt:
As you draw out the personal values of your staff, you show them respect and honor their uniqueness. In that way, you’re keeping in step with Jesus’ second core value, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
What books would you recommend that help develop compassion? Share them in the comment section below.
Originally published at https://peterenglert.com on July 8, 2020.