A few years back, I caught up with a former mentor and teacher of mine. She was quite accomplished having written books, taught at many different levels and held significant administrative positions in the Church. What she said to me, puzzled me then, and to this day makes me wonder what brought her to say it. What she said was she found herself in darkness. She did not elucidate any further, and I was then unable to question her more. Today it is too late.
In her book Daring Greatly, Brené Brown quotes Pema Chödrön, a Buddhist Nun who says: “Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.” (Brown, 2012) There it is again. Darkness.
So maybe there’s a relationship between darkness and compassion? Brown and Chödrön seem to be saying that. As Passionist Partners we sing and talk of the Compassion of Christ leading us to life. Is that compassion of Christ the same as the compassion of Jesus or the compassion of Mary standing at His cross on Good Friday or holding Him in her hands after he died?
In this Ted Talk Brené Brown talks about here personal experience with vulnerability, which she says, is the birthplace of joy, life, love… I share this not as a final answer to what is compassion, but as my continued search to find the light, especially when I feel the darkness.