Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Can you make me care?

Can you teach someone to care? That's my big question these days as a minister, counselor to at-risk youth, and mother. I see so many kids in crisis and yet so few who are willing to change. Even if they know that their decisions aren't beneficial, they will still continue making the same mistakes. Even though they have been abused by others, they continue the cycle of bullying and hurt. As their families have been broken, they are broken inside and are determined to stay that way.

I saw a book at the library tonight by Karen Armstrong. I've enjoyed some of her other works such as The Case for God and A History of God. Her newest book, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, aims to teach compassion and to implore religious traditions to return to compassion as their unifying foundation. As the early Christian Church was set apart by its acts of compassion, too often now we are set apart by our indifference...or hatred. As I glanced through the book, Armstrong defines compassion (suffering together with someone, NOT pity) and gives steps for becoming more compassionate.

As a minister, it's definitely a value I'd like to teach, but after seven and a half years in my current position, my tactics aren't working. A monthly trip to serve dinner at the Rescue Mission works more than anything, but it doesn't seem to alter their perceptions and actions long-term. I'm wondering if you can truly motivate someone to better him/herself and our world. How do you motivate someone who is not self-motivated?

I think I'm more fortunate in my role as parent to be part of creating a healthy family system (hopefully!) where our kids can experience and then carry out compassion. It will not be an easy job as community becomes a rarer value.

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