Compassion, Sympathy or Lie-based Pain?

by Apr 22, 2017

Genuine Compassion is a wonderful gift to be shared

Sharon and I had been married about 10 years when the Lord blessed us with our first child. Sarah was a delightful child with an effervescent personality that could win over anyone’s heart. This blessing came to a tragic end when little Sarah developed an undetected brain hemorrhage. She survived three brain surgeries, but eventually lost her fight for life and the Lord took her home. Sharon and I entered into the darkest time of our lives as we grieved the loss of our little girl.

Before Sarah died, I had counseled people who came to me with different issues and losses. Now and then someone would come who had suffered the loss of a loved one. I would say, “I know how you feel”, or other pat answers. The truth is, I did not know how they felt, because I had not experienced anything like what they were experiencing. I could offer sympathy, but not compassion. Sympathy says, “I feel sorry for you”. Compassion says, “I know the pain you carry, for I, too, have carried a similar burden”.

Compassion can come alongside and encourage the one in pain, in a way that nothing else can. This is only possible because the one with compassion has been where the person is and he personally knows the pain. Many people tried to console me through my grief with their sympathy—and I appreciated it. Occasionally someone came and said, “I know what you feel. I too, had a child who died.” When this happened, something inside of me reached out and grabbed hold of that person’s words of encouragement. This person knew the pain of what I was feeling and could offer me true compassion.

Genuine compassion is a wonderful gift to be shared. It allows us to truly “weep with those who weep.” (Rom. 12:15) and to “…comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Cor. 1:4) Whereas, sympathy only goes so far. Sympathy can say, “I am sorry for your situation,” but it cannot say, “I know how you feel.” It allows us to show pity for a persons plight, but it is not compassion. People may appreciate sympathy, but genuine compassion will bring hope encouragement like nothing else.


When Our “Compassion” is something else

To clarify, the pain we are referring to here that merits compassion or sympathy is truth-based pain as opposed to lie-based. There is no need to express compassion or even sympathy for a person’s lie-based pain since it is based upon a lie and not the truth. Nevertheless, it is common for a ministry facilitator to feel badly when he witnesses the person agonizing through lie-based pain. The facilitator may assume that what he is feeling is compassion or sympathy when in fact, he is feeling something else.

A ministry facilitator may think that what he feels is compassion when in fact he has been triggered by his own lie-based pain. I have witnessed this occurring through the years when I present a live TPM training. During the training I often asked for a volunteer who was willing to be prayed with, in front of the entire group, for training purposes. Without fail, when the person begins to work through their memory and starts expressing their emotional pain, by crying and sometimes even wailing, the other people in the group become very stirred emotionally, themselves, by what is happening. Many people will look down at the floor, look at their cell phones, some even leave the room. Then the facial tissues start being passed around in abundance. After the ministry session is over, someone will usually ask a question that reflects the issue of “compassion.” It might be worded something like, “What are we to do during a ministry session when our compassion for the person wells up in us?” They may go on to explain that watching a person process —such pain can be very difficult.

The truth is, what the trainees were feeling was probably not actually compassion but, rather, their own lie-based pain being triggered by the emotional pain of the prayer recipient. People will often resist this idea and say it is only natural to empathize when people are experiencing such pain. I try to graciously point out that, if we had been there when it happened, it would have been appropriate to feel something toward the person. However, the pain being expressed in the demonstration session is no longer related to what happened, but only to the person’s current lie-based core belief. If anything, they should feel excited and joyful that the person is moving toward truth and freedom. Pain is a necessary part of that process.

If you find yourself feeling painful emotions while ministering with someone, you will do well to look and see why. You cannot answer this question with your logical mind, but rather you must feel your way there. Focus on your “compassion” and allow your mind to connect you with the memory of where you felt this same way before. Do not be surprised to discover that your compassion is actually something else.