Compassion: take a deeper look

by Joanne Kelly

Do you ever get excited about a book or movie and want all your friends, relatives, work colleagues – heck, even the pizza delivery guy — to read it or see it? That’s how I feel about “Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion.” This moving book, written by Father Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit priest and master storyteller, takes us inside Homeboy Industries and shows us how it transforms the lives of gang members in Los Angeles by offering them jobs, community, acceptance and compassion.

The stories he tells will make you laugh so hard you cry, and cry so hard your heart splits open.

The gang members call Father Gregory “G.” Here’s G’s definition of compassion:

“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a covenant between equals. … Compassion is always, at its most authentic, about a shift from the cramped world of self-preoccupation into a more expansive place of fellowship, of true kinship.”

With G’s stories swirling in my head, I realized I had an opportunity to move more fully from a place of empathy with those who struggle with mental illnesses into that more expansive place he describes. I am not quite sure yet how it will look, but I am open to its unfolding in my life.

How about you? Are you open to looking at yourself and your beliefs in a new light? I invite you to read the book and email me with your thoughts about it and how it affects your views on compassion.

Joanne Kelly

Interfaith Network on Mental Illness and Caring Clergy Project

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the submitter. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the board of directors or members of the Interfaith Network on Mental Illness.