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Meet My Friends: Pity and Compassion

Who are your closest friends? Who walks with you through this and that and the unexpected? The hard? Do these friends bring out the best in you?

When I'm honest, like my friend Marie Guthrie is in her blog today, I can align myself with certain friends that actually bring me down and overlook the value of those who deeply challenge my best.

How about you?


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Meet My Friends: Pity and Compassion

By Marie Guthrie

I had the support of two key friends as I walked through intense pain and grief. Their names are Pity and Compassion. Let me introduce you to them ...

My friend Pity is genuine, sympathetic sorrow. She has tears welling up in her eyes. She says, "I'm so sorry for this loss. It's the worst thing in the world." Pity is the heavy stare that shows sadness and reflects back to me the horror of my circumstance. She sends the beautiful card in the mail that expresses authentic words of comfort and regret. Pity holds out her hand to comfort me for a few minutes. This side of pity is the better side of her.

Yet, this friend has a dark side. "I'm so glad this didn't happen to me," she secretly thinks. She hears my sorrow - to a point. Not wanting too many details, pity is busy. She can be in a hurry. Pity wishes I could move on quicker. Or, she wishes, I would be "OK." She wants the "old" me back. My friend pity doesn't stay long; she wants to move on. I think she is fearful of showing too many emotions. The fear of getting sucked into the vortex of my grief is scary to her.

My friend Compassion is very aware of my distress and wants to alleviate it. She is sobbing with me. She says, "I'm so sorry this happened to us. Let me carry some of your heavy load. We need to share this heavy burden. I won't let you walk the valley alone." Compassion encourages me to give her some of the heavy rocks out of the bag on my back.

She sits in the mud puddle with me for as long as I need to talk about my loss. My friend compassion is not in a hurry. She doesn't feel the need to fix me or anything. We just sit together quietly or hold hands as we sob until there are no more tears left. She listens more than she talks. She is heartbroken, but not frozen. She thinks of creative ways to share time with me and serve me to alleviate my suffering.

My friend compassion looks a lot like her sister - love.

I tend to want to visit with my friend compassion more than my friend pity. Compassion typically has suffered a great lost herself. Or, she is so open to God working through her that she doesn't fear entering into my circumstance. She walks through my door, sits down at my table and shares the bitter meal with me.

I knew pity and compassion most closely when my 15-year-old daughter, Leah, was shockingly diagnosed with a rare sarcoma cancer. Leah was a brave and courageous young girl. I had the support of these two, key friends as I walked Leah through her tragic illness and entry into heaven.

I also was pity and compassion to Leah during her season of cancer. During the course of her illness, I hope and trust that Leah saw the friend compassion grow in me, leaving the friend pity behind.

Due to walking this valley of heartbreak and suffering with my family, I pray others will grow to see the friend compassion in me. There will be many opportunities to show her face to others as the earthquakes will rock, the tsunamis will crash, floods will soak, fires will consume and tornadoes will tear up. Pain comes. Unexpectedly. Relentlessly. Without prejudice. To all. To people for whom I care.

Whose face do you want to show? The friend pity or compassion?

"Praise be to God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." 2 Corinthians 1:3

Marie Guthrie has a passion for helping people and organizations tell their stories in a compelling way. Never once bored in her calling, Marie is a writer and marketing and communications executive. She has written compassion, justice and racial reconciliation curricula for the Willow Creek Association and has served on the Willow Creek prayer team for many years. Marie is blogging about her journey of grief and restoration at "God Wins ... but Can I?" at

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