Two mean women in jail demanded that the young, newly incarcerated girl provide them cigarettes and spend her own money to purchase their snacks and shampoo. Weeks later, the young girl found the courage to resist and so refused their demands. They beat her up. She had the black eye to prove it.
Counseling women in the Oklahoma County Jail is not always easy. What should this girl do now? Or rather, how should we react when someone mistreats us? Steals our property? Talks bad about us? Hurts us? Do we curse, find a way to retaliate or hate them? What do we do with the anger?
“Compassion is the emotion most frequently attributed to Jesus,” Paul Miller states in his book, Love Walked Among Us. “Jesus’ command to love your enemies takes the energy out of bitterness. Instead of plotting revenge, we plan how to do them good.… Love always moves people to restore relationships.”
Compassion in the face of hardship is never easy. Forgiving or “letting go” of painful incidents or difficult people may not be simple. It takes more than mere repetition of words like, “I forgive. I forgive.”
Anger can change to sadness or pity like the way Jesus looks at us when we behave our worst. Jesus taught compassion in Matthew 18:33: “Don’t you think you should show pity to someone else, as I did to you?” (CEV)
When a person is mean-spirited, we don’t know their past heartaches, what they’re running from, or even why they do what they do. But we can feel sorry for them because they cannot experience joy and bitterness at the same time. And if they continue in their disgraceful behavior, their future looks as bleak as their past.
The incarcerated young girl above chose to release the pain. She forgave. And some weeks later, one of the mean-spirited women came to her, asking for understanding and godly advice!
Compassion triumphs over hate—any day.