Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Good Friday focus on suffering & compassion April 7, 2023

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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A crown of thorns (similar to that worn by Jesus on the cross) used in a Stations of the Cross event at my church in 2019. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo April 2019)

ON THIS GOOD FRIDAY, the day Christ was crucified, I contemplated what I would write. I had two topics in mind—suffering and compassion. Then I realized I needn’t choose one. I could focus on both.

Christ died a cruel and agonizing death. There is no denying that. Yet, even in his betrayal, his pain, his intense suffering, he showed compassion to the end. And beyond the end. We can learn a lot from Jesus.

We all experience suffering in life. That’s a given in our humanity. Right now I have friends going through some really rough stuff within their immediate and extended families. A one-year-old on life support. A nephew dead in a tragic car accident. Another battling advanced cancer. Ongoing and new health issues. It can feel like a lot. And to think otherwise would be to deny the challenges facing people about whom I care deeply. There are days when I feel overwhelmed by all the suffering in this world and beyond. Enough already, I want to scream.

Reaching out with care and compassion. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

But then I recognize that I can either be dragged down by it or I can do as Christ did—show compassion. I can be that person who listens. I can be that person who offers encouraging words. I can be that person who mails an uplifting greeting card with a personal note. I can be that person who connects and shows care in tangible ways and sets aside my anguish to focus on those at the center of challenges.

This is not the time to pull out my own stories and compare, thus putting the focus on me. This is not the time for me to tell anyone how to think, feel or act. This is not the time to offer advice. This is the time to simply be there. To listen. To hug. To pray, but to take my compassion beyond thoughts and prayers.

We can all work on improving our listening skills. Not just hear, but listen. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

I am a major advocate of listening. It is one of the greatest gifts anyone can give to someone who is grieving, in crisis, in the throes of health or other challenges. Listening doesn’t seem to come easily for most people. It takes a conscious, focused effort. But at its core, listening is easy. It requires keeping one’s mouth closed, for starters. And then it necessitates concentrating, taking in every word, every nuance, body language and detail.

By nature, I am a quiet observer. I don’t need to be, want to be, the loudest person in the room pushing my ideas or opinions or recommendations. I know too many individuals who fit that self-centered persona. They exhaust me and, yes, sometimes even anger me. Quiet compassion and listening center me.

An important message painted onto a fence in a downtown Faribault pocket garden. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

Today, as I reflect on the life and death of Christ, I see someone who showed great compassion throughout his time on earth. He witnessed and understood suffering. He experienced emotions. He felt pain. Yes, I can learn a lot from Jesus. About loving. About listening. About showing compassion, even in suffering.

TELL ME: How do you show compassion to those who are facing challenges?

© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


10 Responses to “Good Friday focus on suffering & compassion”

  1. It is so much about loving and supporting and listening and caring and connecting. I have made meals, sent cards, been there listening and supporting, and even sent a personalized bird feeder to keep someone’s memory in the forefront while taking in nature and watching the birds (aka solace is so what she needs). Here’s to Sharing and Showing Compassion and Kindness 🙂

  2. Kim Kendall Says:

    Beautiful words, Audrey

  3. Beth Ann Says:

    Exactly why we are friends and why I love you so much. We are cut from the same cloth when it comes to this skill and it is a skill. It is so important to be an active listener. Easter blessings, my friend!

  4. Rose Says:

    Similar to you Audrey I try to show compassion by listening, offering hugs and kind words. I too, tire of the loud personalities. On this day I feel pulled in many directions by many who are suffering. There are times where the best I can do is laugh/cry through it in my own private moments.

  5. beth Says:

    I think everyone experiences suffering in their lives and I try to show compassion by being fully present for them, listening to what they want to share, and telling them I will always be here for them, without judgement.

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