I hate trite quotes. Especially when they're splashed on stock photos. They convey profundity but in reality are hopelessly shallow and deceptively naive. While some of them speak truth, many don't. That's why I have a tendency to gloss over most "inspirational" quotes that show up on my social media feeds.
But there is one quote I saw months ago that continues to stick with me.
Posted by TobyMac, it simply said, "Everyone around you is fighting a battle you know nothing about."
Recently I heard something similar from one of my favorite bloggers, David Qaoud. When asked what advice he'd give to young writers, he said, "Don't compare yourself too much. People who have book deals and make money and have big websites, they have gone through a lot of suffering and hardship that you know nothing about, and they don't promote it that much, and there's always something behind the story that you don't know."
Even more personally, I've seen this in my own life. Someone close to me has been going through ongoing suffering, and it's been confusing and discouraging for her. But many people who know about it have no idea how hard it's been.
And actually, I get that. Because I've realized that I have a tendency to do the same thing to others. I think I know people's stories. I think I get it. So I either envy people whose lives seem perfect or think I have the right to speak into the hurt of those I know.
What I'm missing is compassion.
Compassion says: I see your life, but I know I don't have the whole story. I recognize that your trials, burdens, and suffering are unique — even if we've gone through the exact same thing. I know I probably don't have a solution to your pain, so I won't try to "fix" you. Instead, I'll just love you.
Compassion is caring about someone else's suffering so much that you extend grace instead of judgment. It's not always having an opinion on someone else's life. It's recognizing that you don't have the right to speak into every person's pain. And it's being okay with that.
Compassion is rooted in both humility and love. It's utterly others-focused, and that's what makes it so colossally difficult.
Did you know that the overwhelming majority of times the Bible talks about compassion, it's referring to God having compassion on his people (Ps. 103:13; Is. 54:8; Matt. 9:36; Luke 7:13)? Compassion is a divine attribute. If we want to be like our good and gracious God, we're compelled to pursue compassion.
So here's my manifesto today: Pay attention. Love more. Judge less.