Since I (Jill) tend to be a “buck up” person, that means I’m a buck up mom and a buck up wife. That also means in the past, I was pretty low on compassion. This is one big place God has been growing me in a huge way. For years I claimed “this is just the way God made me.” Then I did a study on the character of God. When I got to “God is compassionate,” I gulped with conviction. If God is compassionate, and I’m created in the image of God, then that means I can become compassionate. Over time I’ve come to understand compassion really is one of our much-needed God-tools for marriage!
Author and speaker Tammy Maltby shared with me, “Compassion is a choice. We must choose to see. We must choose to reach out to the other person and weep when they weep. We use our tears and pain to relate, to build a bridge into another person’s reality. It is one of God’s most powerful tools.”
Compassion feels. It builds bridges. Compassion creates a sense of safety and security in your marriage and in the relationships that mean the most to you. Learning to listen with empathy helps your spouse trust you more. It causes him/her to feel validated and loved. Compassion helps you slow down, tune in, and really connect to those you love. It’s a God-tool that’s so underused in marriage, particularly as stress increases, margin decreases, and you become more familiar with your spouse’s imperfections. Closely related to compassion is kindness and patience. In fact, it’s safe to say that if you’re using your God-tool of compassion, you’ll be more likely to be kind and patient, as well.
When Mark went through his mid-life crisis, God used those nine months to grow me in compassion. Initially I was hurt and angry, of course. Soon, however, I began to see Mark as confused and hurting. He wasn’t the enemy but instead was being blinded by the enemy. He had lost his way. I believe the more I used the God-tool of compassion, the more it opened me up to love “unhumanably.”
Need to increase your use of the God-tool of compassion? You’ll want to start focusing on the feelings, not a solution. This is where the old adage “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” comes into play. You don’t have to agree with emotions when you validate them. You simply have to let the other person know you are connecting to the reality of what they’re feeling.
You’ll also want to look at your spouse through God’s eyes. See them as broken. Wounded. In process. In need of a Savior. Struggling. Lost. Confused. Imperfect. See them through eyes of grace and love.
And then finally you’ll need to respond with empathetic, validating statements. “I bet that was so disappointing,” or “I’m sure that hurt your heart deeply,” or “That breaks my heart. I would imagine it broke yours,” or “I’m so sorry. I’m sure that was painful for you to experience.” These kinds of caring responses let your spouse know he or she is heard and cared for.
‘So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. ‘ Colossians 3:12-13
What about you? Where do you need to see your spouse through the lens of compassion? Where do you need to respond compassionately?