Cam Taylor

Be inspired. Be focused. Be tenacious.

How to Fan Compassion’s Flame

While out riding my mountain bike this week (an exciting new hobby I was cleared to pursue!), I ran into an old friend I got to know while riding my scooter around the neighborhood over the past 3 years. He also rides a scooter.


My friend deals on a daily basis with advanced Parkinson’s but maintains a warm and friendly attitude. We have had some great visits over the past three years but I hadn’t seen him for a while, until this week.

This week when I stopped to see him, I felt a warm connection with a friend who knows what it means to struggle with a body that is no longer what it once was. We swapped a few surgery stories, shared a few hopes and dreams, encouraged each other and told each other to press on in life.

As I rode away, I asked myself, “What about that visit, seems to light a fire inside me? Where is the joy I feel coming from? Why am I just a little bit more alive as I ride away?”

A Glimpse into what may have happened

As I reflected on our drive-by visit, I connected the experience I had with something I’ve been reading in the writing of Henri Nouwen. What I saw more clearly was how I moved just a little closer towards greater joy while living in the land of suffering and patient recovery.

Community and solidarity are at the heart of the movement from sorrow to joy. When you begin to feel the pain of your life in relation to other people’s pain, you can face it together. This is where the word compassion comes from (com-passion = passion, to suffer, to suffer with, to suffer with other persons); that’s where the word patience comes from (patience = patior, “to suffer”). To be patient is to experience the pain of your life. And when you experience it with somebody else, you can be compassionate.

This is how the healing begins. Not by wonderful answers, not by “do this or do that.” It starts by experiencing the powerlessness of not-knowing-what-to-do together. That is why it’s so important that we grow in compassion. As we feel and live the pain of our own losses, our grieving hearts open to a wider world of suffering and loss…Then the pain of our life connects us with the moaning and groaning of a suffering humanity.*

How does one fan the flame of compassion and increase your capacity to a more full and meaningful life? By connecting with others who suffer and in doing so, find greater healing and wholeness within yourself.

Could it be…

  • …that recovery and healing cannot be fully experienced in isolation?
  • …that patience is wrapped up in the packaging of suffering and the only way to “grow in patience” is to experience pain and travel the road of adversity?
  • …that when you suffer, new doors of connection open to a world full of suffering and to people who simply need a friend to stop and listen to their story?
  • …that when you “suffer with other persons” you gain wisdom and your heart grows a few sizes bigger?
  • …that the full expanse of human experience is cheapened when we only look for happy places in life and avoid like the plague those hard places where tears are shed and hearts ache?
  • …that there are people waiting for you to connect with them and in doing so, you will help move them closer to joy, gain renewed hope and feel some warmth while enduring the coolness of their adversity?

What’s the story of pain others need you to share with them?
Who can you suffer with today?

*Source: Nouwen, Henri J. M. Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit (Kindle Loc. 916-924).

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About Cam Taylor

Life and leadership coach, transition & change specialist, husband, dad, leader, writer, life long learner.

3 Replies

  1. Shirlene Henning

    We need each other,through it all. Another great one, Cam.

  2. Cheryl Berto

    Great post Cam, I think that you are highlighting something that is hugely important. here is a link to a talk by Brene Brown who also has lots to say about connection as well as (in this talk) the difference between empathy and sympathy. She became famous through a TED talk that she did in Huston in 2010 which is also worth viewing if you have never seen it. it’s not exactly the same as what you are saying but is a worthy support to it.

    1. Thanks Cheryl for the link to that talk – I will definitely check it out. Without having researched it, empathy seems a lot closer to compassion than sympathy but I’ll see what Brown says. You take care! Cam

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