Can King’s Students Make Room for Compassion?

This article is part of an Opinion series on the Interregnum theme of Compassion

Photo courtesy of The King's College Facebook page

Photo courtesy of The King's College Facebook page

Can a campus of 500 overworked, sleep-deprived and career-driven young adults live out compassion in the day-to-day?

Sure, I know we’re not all in that boat, but regardless, the question is important to consider as Interregnum kicks off.

Personally, my experience at King’s has consisted of trying to juggle far too many commitments, trying to operate on five hours of sleep a night, and obsessively trying to keep track of a Google Calendar that has classes, work hours, and meetings booked from 9a.m. to 9p.m. just about every day of the week.  

I know that many students have found ways to manage their time in a way that allows abundant sleep, socializing, and good grades (can you share the secret with me, please?). However, I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that, for many more of us, the school year often feels more like an episode of "Survivor" than a season of "Friends."

In light of this year’s Interregnum theme, I’ve been asking myself what needs to change—these days, I’ve felt I barely have time to see friends, much less practice compassion.

We can spend a year going to lectures and discussion groups, but the Interregnum theme doesn’t matter if we don’t ask a simple question alongside it: how we do make room for compassion?

I don’t think the answer is less sleep so that we have time to volunteer at the Bowery every Saturday morning (the volunteering is great, the lack of sleep, not so much). The answer isn’t one golden productivity hack we haven’t discovered yet; in my opinion, the answer isn’t even to cancel some meetings and ramp up our Bible study attendance.

Compassion is an overall attitude that requires a huge mental shift. However, an important note is that compassion also requires boundaries.

The key to making room for compassion isn’t glamorous or cool. It won’t get you sixty retweets and it won’t cause fellow students to stop you in the halls to tell you how hilarious your “Finsta” is.

Compassion isn’t (necessarily) about volunteering or serving the homeless or mentoring girls at the pregnancy center. At its core, compassion is about assuming that the people around you are doing their best. It’s about recognizing the “imago Dei” in everyone you meet. And the practice of it (according to author Brene Brown) is being able to say, “you’re not alone in this.”

Compassion is an overall attitude that requires a huge mental shift. However, an important note is that compassion also requires boundaries. The basic idea is that we can assume people are doing their best, but that doesn’t mean we always say “that’s okay.”

When we can speak up about what’s okay and what’s not okay for us, we become free to love more. It’s far more selfish to hold onto resentment that can turn into bitterness than it is to say, “actually, I can’t do that right now.”

This aspect of compassion is scary. It requires vulnerability and boldness. However, we will never be able to truly love the people around us, to truly be able to say “I’m with you,” unless we can assume that they’re doing their best and then speak honestly about the ways they might be hurting or inconveniencing us.

Far too often, we (myself included) tend to go the opposite direction by talking to others instead of confronting the one who offended us. But here’s the problem: gossip is the complete antithesis to compassion. As a student body, we won’t be compassionate until we can let go of the need to gossip, rant, vent, or whatever you want to call it.

As we finish out Interregnum and this school year, let’s encourage each other in the hard work of compassion. It’s not easy, but it changes everything.

The opinions reflected in this OpEd are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of staff, faculty and students of The King's College