Compassion should never be far

Posted 31 July 2020 9:26am

‘Uncertainty; business confidence; second waves; national economic recovery; fear; the other side of the pandemic’ – the language and terms of the media cycle and discussions these days are still so foreign to our traditional experience of life, travel and personal wellbeing.

How do we navigate our own response to the pandemic challenges yet also find space to lead, guide, mentor or support others? 

As an Anglican School there is much to guide us in our response to living in the current times.

One of the constant values that Jesus lived was that of compassion, and the Gospels constantly describe Jesus as “having compassion” for those around him.  Jesus introduced us to a God of compassion. Compassion –‘compassio’; rahma’; ‘shamatha’ – is a fundamental value or virtue in major world religions. Dirrum Dirrum in our Indigenous tradition is ‘a way of seeing things’ and being ‘human together, meeting on common ground and bestowing rather than possessing power’ - it is the action of compassion.

Compassion literally means “to suffer together”. Among emotion researchers, it is defined as the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering. While cynics may dismiss compassion as touchy-feely or irrational, scientists have started to map the biological basis of compassion. Research has shown that when we feel compassion, our heart rate slows down, we secrete the “bonding hormone” oxytocin, and regions of the brain linked to empathy, caregiving, and feelings of pleasure light up, which often results in our wanting to approach and care for other people.

Compassion is a stronger and more life-giving response than empathy – compassion, more often than not, motivates action and a desire to change the situation. Compassion calls us to action. The many members of the community who took food to those locked down in the public housing towers in Melbourne recently is but one example.

Both our School Hymn and our School prayer are grounded in the call to be compassionate people. The hymn “Jerusalem” is based on William Blake’s poem “Jerusalem”. The poem and our School hymn are challenging us to be people who respond with compassion to those who are suffering –whether someone we know has lost their job, whether our city needs to go on lockdown, or if a family in our community returns a positive COVID-19 test.

How would we react?

Would we try to put ourselves in others’ shoes? Would we blame others for the potential inconvenience of disruption to our way of living or the operation of our School if we had a positive case in the coming months?

Our School hymns call us to be people of compassion to reach out with love, care and understanding to those who are suffering and transform their situation.

Compassion is one of the values we are praying for when we pray that our School will be a place where those things that “are true, pure, lovely and of good report may here forever flourish and abound”. True compassion will only ever be enacted when we truly “love and reverence”, not only one another in our School community, but the whole world.

Mr Peter Milligan, Deputy Principal and
The Reverend Jenny Willsher, School Chaplain