What Role Does Compassion Have?

While compassion is sometimes needed, charity is always required.

Recently I interviewed with an investigative reporter who had some questions about my online interactions using #DezNat. After more than an hour on the phone, the reporter stated that she had one final question before concluding the interview:

“What role does compassion play in your online interactions as a #DezNat user?”

I admit that I was caught off guard with the question. I answered that while compassion is important in some instances, it was far more important to practice and strive for charity. Would I say that I have charity? No. I don’t have Christ’s perfect love. Is that what I am striving to obtain? Absolutely. Mormon defined charity:

And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. (Moroni 7:45)

Christ’s perfect love was best exemplified by His atoning sacrifice. He offered to take upon Himself our sins that we may obtain mercy at the Judgement Seat if we repent and are sanctified by the Holy Ghost through faithful observance to the covenants we make at baptism and in the temple. However, if we choose to reject the Savior, we stand to pay the price of our own sins before being relegated to Telestial Glory. (D&C 19:16-19)

A problem that arises is when we as humans signal to ourselves by conflating charity with “niceness.” It is far too common to see people gather flocks to themselves by virtue of their compassion and pity rather than pointing them in the direction of the Savior. It doesn’t do anybody good to tell someone there is nothing wrong with them. If they have done nothing wrong, what need is there for repentance…or even Jesus himself? But at least I was nice, right? What’s worse is when “niceness” becomes a club to tear down those who are signaling to Jesus as our ultimate healer by labeling them as “unchristlike.” The irony is rich and the consequences are tragic.

An oft misused story is that of the Jesus with the woman taken in for adultery. Christ stated to the Pharisees: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7)

Jesus then turned to the woman and asked, “Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee? She said, “No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee…” (John 8:10-11)

If we stop there as many people do, we see Christ’s compassion, His pity upon the woman. However, His charity is left out. “…go, and sin no more.” Without the invitation to repent, to change, and to partake of His mercy, the moment of compassion is nothing more than a temporary pat on the back.

One of the original #DezNat memes by @GrahamBeRad

Is there a place for compassion? Sure, there is. Is there a higher characteristic, a more eternal attribute for which we should strive? Absolutely. Not everyone is the woman taken into adultery, needing pity and compassion before being warned. Compassion in our day-to-day interactions is usually much easier to muster than it is with online discourse, even with people that we know well. At the same time, it is always easy to accuse one of having a lack of compassion without knowing their backstory, either. It is possible the “accuser” has suffered and is in need of love just as much, if not more, than the “accused.”

My mantra is to attack ideas, not people. Not everyone can separate themselves from their ideas. It is a tricky balance. But the key to it all is to point to Christ. The person with the friendliest tone who leads away from Jesus could be the most damaging Korihor while the firm and direct course correction may be coming from a powerful Nephi or Captain Moroni. Remember that charity, the true love of Christ, directs us to our Savior and His all-powerful and redeeming love.

Supplemental Reading:

I Have Given You an Example” – Elder Richard G. Scott, April 2014

Abide In My Love” – Elder D. Todd Christofferson, October 2016

Our Good Shepherd” – Elder Dale G. Renlund, April 2017

You can follow Dustin on Twitter at @dmturner1232

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