[Originally published as A Case for Compassionate Thoughts]
While writing these posts, I became acutely aware of one of the weakest spots in my Christian walk.
Before I air some of my dusty linen, I want to share a bit about my family’s pets. We have several cats. But the first two are the ones I will share today.
One is a rescue cat. The other isn’t.
The rescue cat walks around the house gingerly, as though she expects something dangerous to jump out from every nook and cranny. The other cat is from a kind family who loved on her from day one. She is carefree. The only time she’s alarmed is when someone turns a vacuum cleaner on. And yet, our blender is louder, and she doesn’t budge from her spot on the kitchen carpet when I fire it up.
It’s humbling to admit this, but I’m like our rescue cat.
My weakness hampers my ability to give and receive love as well as I could. I hold myself back. I withhold my time and attention from others as a protective measure. But the more I dug into the topic of compassion, the more I realized my lack of showing compassion towards others. Instead of compassion, I often engaged in suspicion. When people were kind to me, I questioned their motives.
Unfortunately, this is a common response for people who’ve suffered abuse and/or neglect in their past.
People who’ve been harmed tend to be hyper-wary of being harmed again. They struggle with trust issues.
Trust is essential for serenity.
Trust is a vital component of love too. We can’t love our neighbors or ourselves properly without it. If trust has been broken, it’s difficult to trust again. But it’s not impossible. It begins with the mind.
Here’s what we’re to think about:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8 NIV
It’s impossible to have compassion for ourselves or others when our thoughts are filled with mistrust. Even if something has triggered fear in us — or reminded us of past hurts — it won’t hurt to rein in the negative thoughts. It’s better to think about whatsoever is positive instead. The truth will eventually rise to the surface.
It’s a shame when we wasted time dwelling on bad thoughts and then it turns out all was well.
I know this from experience.
Compassionate thoughts are necessary for our mental health too. We’re also blessed when we have compassion for ourselves. When we’re triggered and our anxiety ramps up, we can tamp it down with compassionate self-talk.
By acknowledging our pain and then reframing our thoughts, we can respect our need to feel safe and respect the need for others to be trusted. Although blind trust isn’t wise, blindly mistrusting isn’t helpful either. There’s a balancing act we can reach by placing all our trust in the God of compassion.
Let’s look at what God says about it:
Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning, great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV
All our needs are met by God. He is the one who satisfies our hearts. He is our source of lasting joy and peace. When we look to Him more, we’ll worry about what others are up to less. And what does God want us to think about others? Let’s start with what He doesn’t want us to think:
In your hearts do not think evil of each other. Zechariah 7:10 NIV
Besides the Bible telling us to think whatsoever is lovely about each other, it says this about our minds:
Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Zechariah 7:10 NIV
Well, dear friend, in this series, I haven’t shared half of the multitude of verses that are available regarding compassion, yet I’ve still shared enough to make a hefty case for compassionate thoughts being a worthy target for each of us. Not only is God good, but His word is good for us to heed.
And now I’d like to close with a poem:
Whatever is lovely ought to be in our thoughts
For the Bible tells us this so we won’t be distraught
Whatever is praiseworthy ought to fill our minds
Because thinking positive thoughts is the healthiest kind.