Compassionately vulnerable

This is the fifteenth day of the 2020 Love Blog Challenge
hosted by the lovely BelleBrita
Prompt for 2/21:
I am also linking up with Finish the Sentence Friday and
1000 Voices Speak for Compassion
#1000speak is five years old

Compassion –
A sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress
together with a desire to alleviate it.

It’s a beautiful thing. Compassionate people are not callous nor heartless. They recognize the heartache, tragedies, and conflicts in the world as global, not isolated or confined to the region or group. They do not see distant human suffering as someone else’s problem. They work even in small ways to make life better for those in need.

Compassionate people are rarely those who claim I worked hard for what I have, using their own success as a reason to turn a blind eye to those who work doubly hard only to be knocked down or pushed aside again and again. They understand that a lot of boot straps have been stretched and broken, and there’s just nothing more to grab.

* capable of being physically or emotionally wounded
* open to attack or damage

It’s a tricky thing. Vulnerable people remain exposed even when danger knocks, unable to protect themselves. We speak of children in war zones as vulnerable because they have no way of physically fighting back. We speak of battered women in the divorce courtroom as vulnerable because they have lost their strength to emotionally fight back.

Unfortunately, when the compassionate person is the vulnerable person, the Venn-diagram overlap can be a good news/bad news kind of thing. Being compassionate provides the willingness to get out there and join in the fight. But adding vulnerability may create a shield-less soldier.

It’s good to be both – in careful measure.

True, a person with a soft heart cannot always protect it from the meanspirited arrows of those with little compassion. And a person who is open will be exposed to all of the world, both it’s beauty and it’s darkness.

So there just needs to be a strong sense of balance over-seeing the whole combination.

Not too long ago, we were discussing personal challenges. Someone close to me tapped into my Enneagram 4-ness and said:

“I think you struggle with not being able to separate from a situation. It can be good, like when it’s a situation that calls for empathy. But if it needs to remain objective…(pause)
This might be an Enneagram 4 thing. Not only are you comfortable sitting in people’s struggles but also you will find a way to compare it to your own experience. … 4’s aren’t trying to make it about them, necessarily. It is a way to be empathetic. That can be the perfect response.
But it can also hurt the 4 by not being able to separate emotionally. It can hurt you by overloading you and it can be unhelpful if the person is looking for actual advice.”

Like I said: good news/bad news.

I can’t believe that I’m the only one with this combination of character traits. I can’t believe we are all Enneagram 4’s either.

Given the outpouring of support and encouragement from people all over the world for …

  • children suffering at the hands of war and famine,
  • refugees still trying to declare asylum at our borders, and
  • those right here who cannot, no matter what they do, achieve financial stability for themselves and their families

…I know there are compassionately vulnerable men and women everywhere.

I also know there are those who, often for very good reason, protect themselves from the merciless world, resilient and able to tune out some of the trouble and ugliness. They are not necessarily unkind or immune to the cries for help. But they may have been so wounded themselves that to reach out would only cripple them further.

Of course there are those who are simply selfish and cold. Shame on them.

Compassion is a beautiful thing. Vulnerability is a tricky thing. World Vision refers to the combination as “dangerously soft-hearted.”

That plaque is in my studio, a constant reminder: although compassion may not let me separate from emotional situations and vulnerability may leave me open to being attacked or hurt, I am what I am — a compassionately vulnerable person.

And, as one of those who claim that particular personality duo, I do have my own set of pitfalls. I’m constantly being knocked sideways by the black hole of politics and I am too often caught up in what has got to be the fear of those children, refugees and the financially unstable. I get my feelings hurt waaaaaay too easily and I feel “less than” because I can’t – or don’t – do more for those in need.

Yes, my lovelies, it’s my duo and my dance. I hope I’ve improved the balance as I’ve grown older and, hopefully, wiser. And I hope I have been a blessing to at least a few over the years.

All I know is that I was created in the image of God and He still knew what He was doing when He got to the compassionately vulnerable…

Anybody else feelin’ this?

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.

Psalm 139:14


  1. Your final line…if we are made in the image of God as people who have compassion and vulnerability then it means that God had those attributes first. I know I’m stating the obvious here, especially a few days before Lent starts, but it does make me wonder if I should be more accepting of these traits, even when the combination makes them tricky. because of their origin. They’re a feature of what makes us humans, and not a bug…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a good point: “God had those attributes first.” Honestly, I think we are at a point in society when we just about have to state the obvious. The world of “comments” is so often trying to the find the most outrageous “yeah, but how about…?” and if I don’t address each individual perspective, I’ve not been sensitive or inclusive or PC. But the truth is the truth and it’s always God’s truth. I’m not sure why we have to make it so complicated… As always… LOVE your insight! xoxox


  2. Yes. You are made in the image of God- loving, creative, powerful, beautiful. God is with the poor in spirit. “What you did for the least of these you did for me.” We can be with suffering others in their suffering if we can permit the empathetic feeling to flow freely through us, feeling the full pain of it, then letting it go; and also seeing all the good and all the possibility so that we might do something worthwhile. Let us encourage and value each other.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a great post – very moving and open. Compassion and Vulnerability are both good things and together they can have that little bit of good, little bit of heartache effect. I feel that both of these traits of signs of internal strength but I think with like so many other things this is where we must also instill boundaries. Boundaries will help protect you. They will help keep things in that needed balance that you mentioned.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh Nancy I definitely feel like I experience a lot of the world’s beauty and its darkness. It’s wonderful and gut-wrenching. I do sometimes wish I was more ignorant – more blissfully unaware – life certainly would be easier. But lately I am coming to terms with being an enneagram 9 and that compassion and empathy are at the core of who I am. In a way I just have to be careful what contexts I move in, to make sure I see at least as much of the world’s beauty as of its darkness.
    Lots of love!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Britta – and again apologies for not replying right away. there are certain things of which I must stay blissfully unaware. I’ve written about the effect of man’s inhumanity to man on my soul – I can only take so much. And, when I to get and see too much, the beauty has a hard time catching up. This is a real conundrum for those who want to love like Jesus. Hence, my focus on balance. All the best, lots of love to you as well. And God’s peace…xoxox

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The tab with this post has been open in my browser for weeks. Life got in the way!!
    Thank you for this thoughtful post and the link between vulnerablity and compassion is an interesting one.
    I do feel self compassion is essential, especially as you say you feel “less than” because I can’t – or don’t – do more for those in need. We can only ever do our best and need to take care of ourselves too.


    1. Yvonne, So, so sorry. Like you, life got in my way.
      Thank you so much for your kind words. Yes, especially now we can only do our very best… and sometimes even that feels too heavy. Bless you heart and God’s peace…xoxox


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