“My mother ruined our lives. She divorced my dad, and that changed my life and the lives of my brothers forever.” These were the words of a Christian young man, who was letting me know that he hardly ever calls his mother because he has a tremendous amount of resentment toward her.
He wishes his mother had stayed around longer and not filed for divorce, separating the family. He and his younger brother stayed with their father, while his older brother went with their mother. “I know things were not right between the two of them, but she could have waited until we were grown and gone to college to file for divorce.” As I listened to him talk, I could hear the pain coming through his words, and see it in his facial expression and his tears.
What is unbelievable about this is that this same young man is one of the most compassionate persons I have ever known. Now, a successful young adult, he opens the doors of his home anytime he sees someone in need, even if he does not know the person well. He donates money to charity regularly, goes on mission trips often, volunteers as a children’s basketball coach, and mentors youth in the church and the community. Yet he confessed with tears in his eyes that he hardly ever calls his mother. He has not visited her in more than a year, just because she opted out of a real bad and abusive marriage when he and his brothers were kids.
As we continued to talk, the conversation led him to realize something—everyone has an Achilles heel. Each of us has issues in our lives that we are not proud of, yet God is compassionate with us and is always willing to forgive our sins. He loves us despite our shortcomings.
But there was one more thing, which the young adult had never thought about. For years he showed compassion for all types of people he met—people with addictions, marriage problems, young men with criminal records in prison, among others. Yet, he could not show compassion to his own mother. When I explained to him that through the years he was the heart, the hands, and the feet of Jesus to so many people with deep issues, scars, and problems, yet he had ignored his mother’s needs, pain, and hurt, he finally got it. He asked for advice. My advice to him was “compassion must begin in your family.”
How about you? Are you one of those who is compassionate in the streets and compassionless at home? How is your compassion for your own family, your father and mother, your brother and sister, and your older grandparents? When was the last time you placed that call? Have you visited lately? Do you ever bring a gift or a little money to your relative in need? Do you know how much an “I love you” and a hug from you would mean to that little old lady, or to that man who made mistakes, but still longs to hold you again?
In the name of Jesus, the One who created compassion in the first place, I encourage you to make that call. Don’t hesitate. Go for the visit. And, please don’t forget the “I love you.” Oh, and make sure the hug is a tight one. Don’t just do it once; do it often. Compassion adds life to our loved ones and it also adds life to you.
Next time you are showing compassion out there in the streets, remember, compassion is good everywhere, but it must begin with your family!
José Cortés, Jr., is the director of Adventist Youth Ministries in the Atlantic Union.