If You Want To See Compassion, Study The Human Face

Notes on the St Michael’s Day address by Dr Francis Macnab, 25 September 2016. By John Abbate.

Each year on St Michael’s Day, the church honours compassionate individuals for their extraordinary contributions to the community. The theme of this year’s celebrations was “compassion”, and Dr Macnab used his address to shed some light on that important topic.

What is the meaning of compassion? How can we make it happen? What are some of the markers of an effective, practical compassion?

Dr Macnab gives 12 statements, plus one (for the “baker’s dozen”):

  1. Provide others with a safe, social space.
  2. Point them to what will strengthen their coping capacities.
  3. Gather around them reliable, supportive and caring people.
  4. Help them to be in touch with some of the soothing influences of life.
  5. Show them that they matter; show them the psychology of mattering.
  6. Replace self-blame and criticism with self-maintenance.
  7. Bolster self-caring, self-purpose, self-concept; your self-awareness.
  8. Stop scratching at old wounds long enough to allow some healing to happen.
  9. Look for the signposts to your contentment.

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock…

—Revelation 3:20 (KJV)

  1. Open the door. “Be open to the new possibilities,” said Dr Macnab.
  2. Be open to a good presence, to the presence of effective compassion.
  3. Refind your belief in a good and beautiful world, in spite of “the disease of destructiveness” and your own inadequacies and sense of powerlessness.

And finally,

  1. If you wonder about the reality of compassion—its existence in the world—if you want to see compassion, “study the human face,” said Dr Macnab.

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