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Compassionate Passion

Passion without compassion is oppression.

What does this mean and how does it apply to our lives and actions?

Emotions do not exist in isolation. They are influenced by thought, action and beliefs. We experience them daily and different people experience them in different ways.

Passion can be created from positive or negative experiences and it is a strong, sometimes overpowering, emotion. Passion has many meanings as many words now do, however in Latin passion or pati means suffer.

To suffer for 'something', this 'something' is different for every person. Many parents will suffer for their children and be very passionate about their futures. However, what happens when that child becomes a teenager and has no interest in what their parents want their future to be?

The Hebrew word for youth (נְעוּרִים) and the word to shake (לְנַעֵר) come from the same root, this means that the words are related. To be a teenager is to enter into a time of shaking things off.

This is a potentially uncomfortable time for all involved.

This is where a choice needs to be made, compassion or oppression.

Compassion or compati (Latin) is to suffer with whilst oppression or opprimere (Latin) is to press against.

When something is pressed against it can not grow but it will change. If something is supported it can grow and change. Change is the ever present.

To apply this to teenagers is possibly an easy or obvious example. Adults and teenagers have struggled since ancient Greece: “The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.” (Socrates)

What about in other areas of our lives? Work, faith, relationships, friendships, politics - all of these are impacted by how we act.

At work or in politics as decisions are made that impact other people - are those people and their suffering in our mind? Are actions made solely for company/political gain or for individual people/community?

Equally when we are not the decision makers, how do we sit with suffering, either our own or others?

In counselling there are three well known responses to negative change and one lesser know response: Fight, Flight, Freeze, Feign. These are survival responses. However, people sometimes find themselves stuck in one.

When faced with something we do not like the hardest response is acceptance. This might be because acceptance and approval are often seen as interchangeable. They are not. To accept that something is happening or has happened does not mean that someone is happy or sad about it. It means that without guilt, shame or anger it is accepted that it is the reality. It has happened.

Now what?

As stated in 'Repairing the Breach' (Anglican Board of Mission Lent Book 2022) compassion is not for later. Whether it is self compassion or compassion for others a recognition and validation of survival and emotions is necessary. Again, recognition and validation are not interchangeable with approval.

“…until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” (John 8.10-11)

Passion without compassion is oppression.

Compassionate passion offers freedom.

Lydia Goldstone

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