Notes on Compassion, intro and chapter 1

Today I began reading Compassion, by Henri Nouwen and two others. It is looking to be a good read.

I’m going to blog some notes on the book. Generally my practice is to make such notes in a given book, but this one does not belong to me so I have not that liberty.

These are informal and it’s possible they won’t make sense if you haven’t read the book. This is really just for my reference later, but feel free to read.


  • The word “compassion” comes from two Latin words, pati and cum, which together mean “to suffer with.”
  • Compassion requires us to go where it hurts…to be weak with the weak, abused with the abused, sad with the sad, etc.
  • Compassion requires us to enter fully into humanity.
  • Compassion erases mistakes of life.
  • Suffering is unattractive, so oftentimes we avoid dealing with people who are undergoing it. It’s easier that way.

Chapter 1

  • In hard moments, what matters more than anything is another person’s presence. A person who cares.
  • In our world, that’s not easy to come by. The tendency is to try to “fix or teach or change someone undergoing trails. Often, it’s more important simply to be there. That is a prereq for compassion.
  • God’s mere presence is often just what we need. That’s not to say he won’t try to change us later, but we have a desire to be with God. And God shares that desire with us.
  • In the Gospels, 12 variances of the phrase “to be moved with compassion” appear in reference to the Father and the Son.
  • What moved Jesus to cure people is what we must consider first; not the cures themselves.
  • Jesus saw the weak, blind, lonely, etc., and experienced their pains in his own heart. He was truly moved by compassion–not a desire to prove, fix, etc.
  • Jesus’ divine compassion enables us to face our sinful selves, because it transforms our brokenness from a source of despair to a source of hope
  • Out of Jesus’ compassion that his healing emerges. Jesus heals because he was with people and walked with them. He was God with us. This true healing brings about new life.
  • Competition sadly is our goal instead of compassion. We like to compare, to measure, etc., to make sure we’re ahead of the next guy. This kills compassion.
  • We like to define ourselves by distancing and differentiating ourselves from others. We love to focus on “what makes me different.” This takes us away from other people and makes us less compassionate.
  • our deepest illusion is that we can and must make or own identities and we must defend them.
  • The mystery of the Christian life is that we receive a new self–a new identity from God.

One thought on “Notes on Compassion, intro and chapter 1

  1. I read this book back in the late 80's and it is a very good read. I think I will have to pick it up once again and learn something new. God Bless! John K.


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