Compassionate Selfishness

The words in the title above appear to be totally opposite, but the following few paragraphs will unite them. I believe many of society’s ills would be vastly diminished with a good dose of compassion, laced with a pinch of selfishness. For that to take root, as the saying goes, would take a come to Jesus meeting.

My mother once told me a story of she and my father being in a restaurant with another couple. The restaurant had a free dessert bar that included self-serve ice cream cones. As the story goes the husband made two ice cream cones, one for himself and one for his wife. As he was nearing the table, my mother noticed that he compared the size of the two cones and handed the smaller one to his wife, keeping the larger one for himself. My wife and I weren’t there, but we both agreed that if it had been either of us, we would have kept the smaller.

I started thinking about selfishness this morning as I held my wife’s hand and looked into her eyes as she looked into mine. Our “selfishness” started 28 days ago as I was looking at my wife for the first time in ICU following a ruptured aneurysm in her brain. On a ventilator with tubes everywhere, I carefully and gently kissed her on the forehead and said, “I would trade places with you in a second if I could. Will you let me?” Today I said the same words, as she is back on a ventilator following a second rupture. With tears in our eyes she shook her head no, denying my request. The words I spoke today, 28 days ago, and many days between, were without a doubt my heart’s desire. I wanted to be selfish! I wanted to take her place so she wouldn’t have to deal with it anymore. Yes, I’m guilty of compassionate selfishness!

Although my thoughts and feelings are rooted in love and compassion, I can’t help wondering how much better our society would be if we possessed a selfishness that was birthed in a compassion so deep and pure that it took root in our life and spread to the lives of those around us like a contagion. Wouldn’t that be great? Honestly, I don’t have much faith that we will have to put on any compassion-contagion HAZMAT suits, but I see no reason why we can’t give compassion a real try. There was a time when compassion spread like a contagion… following the death of man who claimed he was the Christ. This writer believes with all of his heart that Jesus is who he claimed to be. Oh, how much better society would be if the compassion that was displayed on a cross 2,000 years ago were an integral part of we who claim to be his. 

Stan Means
Elder Source Senior Ministries

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