So a few months ago I got the impression that I needed to pray for compassion for my husband. I don’t remember exactly how. But I knew it was right because I stopped reading the Bible and writing my prayers for two weeks.
I’d prayed for tons of other specifics for my husband and for our marriage, but never for me to have compassion for him. Because compassion goes beyond understanding, or sympathy, or kindness, or patience, or tenderness, but is all of those wrapped up together with a big dose of “this isn’t about you.” Maybe I’m particularly skilled, but I’m able to pray for and practice all those other things while somehow keeping myself as the center of the emotional landscape.
* Look how understanding I’m being. Aren’t I doing a good job of not adding to his stress although I’m really angry?
* I’m gritting my teeth and acting sympathetic although I’m losing sleep and my general friendliness is suffering.
* “God, you’re going to have to give me some of your patience and kindness, because I’m all out.”
Compassion is different, which is why I was so afraid. Compassion busts through the self-righteousness that can give this gal a great big Martyr Complex. So after two weeks, I couldn’t avoid my devotional time anymore. Couldn’t avoid the call to compassion. And I wrote/prayed this:
I pray for the thing that has made me avoid coming to this forum: please, Lord, give me compassion to [my husband] — not lack of anger, not sympathy, but compassion. I have no idea what that will look or feel like, but you led me to pray that and I’ve been avoiding it, but no more. Please give me compassion for [him].
The difference it made was startling. And not at all what I expected.
I talked more about the situation that was plaguing us. Yes, more. Before that, I’d been biting my tongue so I wouldn’t make an already stressful situation even worse by constantly bitching about it (although I sure was in the privacy of my own mind).
And why did I talk about it more? Because I wasn’t complaining about my difficulties, I was outraged for him, on his behalf. I won’t go into details, but I will say it involves a work situation, so it’s nothing I have any control over, and my husband doesn’t always feel he has control over, either. But compassion for him gave me the courage to apply my analytical mind to the situation. The topic was no longer ostentatiously ignored, so it no longer kept us captive in its shadow. Compassion for him gave me the courage to shine light on the situation regularly, which helped him talk through some of the issues, which may have helped him take action.
I told him about this recently, although that first prayer for compassion took place 3 months ago. I told him because I’d used the prayer for compassion again. It was 3 a.m., and I was fuming about something (Big Nagging Issue showing its ugly face again), my mind self-righteously whirling, when I asked myself this question: “What would the compassionate view be?” No surprise, it was very different from what I’d been thinking. And led to an utterly different conversation about it in the morning.
He pointed out something later that afternoon: compassion is related to passion, and while passion can be great, unchecked, it can blind us to the other. As a prefix, com means “together; with; jointly.” I so quickly get all heated up and passionate about my point of view, throwing my arguments at him. Compassion forces me to look away from my agenda and look at him. After all, we are in this together, jointly. I’m with him in this struggle. It isn’t me vs. him. It’s us.
Are there any prayers you’re afraid of? Any prayers you’re avoiding? Pray them anyway.