Moved with Compassion

CompassionThere is a lot of talk in my country about compassion, particularly in relation to nursing – and why people today are seeing a lack of compassion in the profession.

But what does compassion really mean? The literal meaning is “to suffer alongside.” Most Bible translations use the English word compassion to translate several different words in the Bible – none of which has so simple a meaning.

We see Jesus expanding this meaning in Matthew 20:29-43:

As they were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. And two blind men sitting by the road, hearing that Jesus was passing by, cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” The crowd sternly told them to be quiet, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” And Jesus stopped and called them, and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” They said to him, “Lord, we want our eyes to be opened.” Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed him.

In this passage, “moved with compassion” is translated from the Greek word splagchnizomai, literally meaning “to be moved in one’s innards” – either the bowels or the organs of the rib-cage. It is an expression of the most visceral, physical response to the needs and suffering of others. When Jesus hears the plea of the blind men to have their sight restored, he is moved to his guts.

But while we see Jesus profoundly moved, he does not stop with his feelings. He acts decisively and firmly to address the need that he sees and he heals both blind men immediately.

In the Bible, compassion is a verb, not a noun. Like love, it only means something if it leads to decisive action.

In nursing, we are often told to keep a professional distance, not to get involved. But to be truly compassionate, we need to be open to the pain, suffering and needs of our patients, at any level, and be willing and able to be truly moved. Responding decisively may mean sorting out displaced pillows to make someone comfortable, or providing appropriate analgesia on schedule, or simply being present with a person in the most profound and inexpressible distress.

If we cannot be moved and spurred to action by our patients’ needs, how can we be truly compassionate?

--Steve Fouch NCFI Board Member & Europe Regional Chair Nurses Christian Fellowship International

Nurses Christian Fellowship/USA partners with national NCF movements around the world through Nurses Christian Fellowship International (NCFI).



I think I just realized the source of my frustration on the job. Not all staff always respond in this way--and some days, I don't either. It is a daily struggle to meet the needs of our patients as a team when the team is not pulling in the same direction. As more changes occur in our health care system, I pray that God will give me direction to respond to these changes in love, and to be open to new ideas and ways to help.

Virtue is not a virtue until tested. The current work environment is being inundated with non-value added tasks (for the patient). We need people to speak up at the Federal level. As hospitals strive to get their Medicare reimbursement they comply with standards that actually hinder the front line from hands on 'care' to the patient. The most devout nurse is left feeling victimized and guilty. We are considered professionals yet nurses work 13 hour days and still struggle to take a 30 minute uninterrupted lunch break. When no solution to the problems can be seen, people instinctively look to ease their own suffering. This reprieve often presents itself in the form of a promotion, once obtained the person must maintain their new position to avoid the harsh working conditions at the front line.

Shauna, What a powerful statement you made. It is true that it tends to be discouraging and even bring frustration when others in our field do not see the need or necessity to show compassion to those suffering. It would definitely make life easier if we can have a common objective when it comes to taking care of those that need our help. As nurses, we are called to care for others and I pray everyday just like Jesus did when he took action by healing those blind men, that I may be filled with compassion and try my very best to have enough courage to show the same love to my patients regardless how difficult it may seem.

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