I believe in the limitless power of compassion; the compassion given without boundaries, without conditions and with no expectation of returns or reward.
The very personal and singular gift of compassion can be an isolated occurrence or the effect of a routine. It is the impromptu donation to a street-person and the nightly bed-time hugs to a loved one.
I learned about this compassion from my husband and his family. We have been married eleven years this past St. Patrick’s Day and have nine-year old twin boys. The boys reflect the influence of their father’s compassion has on them. Even when sand or disappointed, they have a resilience that comes from being held in high esteem, albeit, with a humble manner.
During a discussion – or should I say debate? Argument? Any way, it was regarding my brother-in-law’s lack of accountability and integrity. He has repeatedly taken advantage of his parents and siblings. He calls only to ask for money and has yet to meet one promissory commitment. When I was growing up, I was taught that people who don’t meet expectations are disposable. It was with this attitude that I told my husband I didn’t want his brother included in any more family activities and that he was not welcome in my house. I was tired of how this reprehensible behavior was tolerated. I hurt every time he let someone down by forgetting a birthday or not showing up as planned. There was just too much pain for the adults and too much confusion for the children.
My husband’s calm and clear response was simply, “He is family”.
This was as foreign to me as any concept I have been presented. The epiphany came later that night and over the next few days. His simple statement resounded in my head and melted my heart. His compassion for his brother has no prerequisites. There is no destructive grudge, no numbing resentment – just compassion.
No matter what had gone by, my brother-in-law is no less loved, no less entitled to his family than his most successful and responsible sibling. I recognized that this is what my husband and his family has been teaching me since our first date and teaching our boys since the day there were born.
Some might say my belief is in unconditional love. However, unconditional love without selfless compassion is easy. To have both, intentionally and with conviction, is a courage to which I aspire. I have many more years of prejudice to unlearn, but this is one of those times when it is better late than never.
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