This is the other scary thing about being known: being known means that you have to face compassion.
There’s a church in Melbourne, in the city, which has engraved along the low wall which lines its border with the footpath: Cleave me with your compassion. Each time I see this, or even think about it, I realise anew how frightening this concept is. Compassion – true compassion – does cleave you. It burns. True compassion is witnessing someone’s pain. It is upholding someone’s pain, taking it seriously. And in doing so, we are forced to acknowledge the pain we have been trying to pretend is not there.
It is easy to brush things off – I’m ok. I’ll get through this. Yes, it was tough, but it’s over now…. It’s easy to say all the brave and self-reflective things, to deflect attention off the tender and painful places. It is easy to offer a small pain to cover the large one, the one you think might cripple you if you even acknowledge it.
But that’s the thing about compassion. It forces you to acknowledge the crippling pains, as well as the small neat ones. It forces you to face the reality of what you’ve been through, what you’re going through. To face the fact that healing takes time, that recovery and restoration are painful. It forces you to be vulnerable, to step away from self-control and keeping it together and putting on a good front, and to admit – to yourself and to others – just how much it hurts.
But – inconveniently to this left-brained control freak – it is facing this compassion and being willing to offer up my own pain that will be the catalyst for my healing. In having the courage to face my pain, to face the reality of what was done for me, I will learn to carry it more lightly. There will be days when it will not feel as heavy, as all-encompassing. The alternative – to pretend frantically that the reality of it is not something I carry – will only drag me down more heavily.
And here’s the other thing: the Creator God of Psalm 139 is already there. Already surrounds my every breath, upholds my every step, sheds every tear (even the ones I pretend aren’t there) and shares every moment of grief and joy. And it doesn’t matter to It whether I’m open to compassion or not. If I shut the door, the Creator of the Universe comes in through the window. There is nothing I can do to push away the Source of love, the Ground of my being.
So I guess there’s not much point in trying. I’ll just have to learn to let It in.
I think I might be getting there. Slowly – but getting there nonetheless.