Compassion: our beating heart

We’ve become an increasingly harsh world, and when we become harsh with each other and forget our humanity then we end up in these standoff positions… We need to rediscover what it is to be a human, and that every human being matters.

Rt Revd Trevor Willmott, Bishop of Dover, as reported here

Compassion is not sympathy. It is not kindness or charity.

Compassion is unnatural, counter-intuitive, unglamorous.

There is little reward for compassion. It won’t further our own prospects. It is unlikely to secure our safety in a world obsessed with survival of the fittest.

Yet compassion is the beating heart of humanity. It looks out for the least. It cares for the vulnerable. It stands in solidarity with those who cannot talk, or fight, or act for themselves.

True compassion (meaning literally, ‘to suffer with’) is hard to find and harder to practice.

Compassion calls us to sit with suffering. Not to turn away, nor to fight it, but to welcome it as the shadowy guest that lurks in the most frightening corners of our imagination.


It’s easier to deal with suffering if we dehumanise it. Human beings become ‘cockroaches’ who ‘swarm’. A ‘swarm’ can be eradicated, treated, exterminated, stamped on, forgotten about, moved on from.

To dehumanise suffering; to turn away, mock it and use it to sell newspapers or buy votes, is the very antithesis of compassion.

And without compassion, our beating heart has stopped.

So who is less human? The ‘swarms’ of migrants? Or those of us who surround ourselves with comfort, turn away our faces, and switch off the TV?