Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2014 Nancy Virden
Recently, I wrote a true story about a 65 year-old woman in Haiti who was left at a major hospital. She was abandoned due to her family’s lack of ability to care for her. This is not a new problem in that country as poverty rips families apart.
This has me thinking. While leaving family members to the care of medical personnel is an act of love and desperation in the above scenario, how many times do we set people aside for more selfish reasons?
Who is worth our investment of time and emotional energy? It is true, none of us can be everywhere or helping everyone. Yet that fact can be used as an excuse to do nothing. We are cushioned by our choice to remain unaware.
Here are four criteria on which we may base judgement of the value of another person.
Behavior. Adam Levine of The Voice has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). If his history was anything like what I observed when I worked with children, his lack of focus may have caused his parents to lose patience. I knew one little guy who was moved from home to home of relatives because as one family “got sick of him,” he would transfer to the next. Yes, they said that to his face.
Perceived potential. Age, financial stability, and education are three criteria by which people are judged superficially. My father is 83 and living in a nursing home far from where I am. He is organizing entertainment as he has all his life, making the place happier for many. I have a favorite relative managing per month on what many of us would expect to be paid in a week. She is tolerant and kind, helping neighbors and taking in people who need a place to stay. I graduated college later in life. Now with a bachelor’s degree, some people treat me differently.
Intelligence. I have an aunt who has lived in a state-run home since she was twelve. Somewhere around the age of four she stopped developing mentally. There are people who have devoted their lives to helping her and others like her to experience as much of life as they can. Recently I heard a woman brag about her IQ. How proud we are to take credit for something for which we had no choice! Higher intelligence raises the bar for social responsibility.
Emotional Stability. Two Sundays ago, I visited a church and heard the pastor say to his congregation that he hopes people who call him are at least emotionally stable. Was he joking? I don’t care. All too often, when we do not know what to do or say, the easiest response is to write a person off as “too much.”
Compassionate love does not try (or believe it possible) to fix everyone. Yet compassionate love attempts to learn about and see another person’s value as God’s creation.
NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.