Be pitiful

Be pitiful

May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. – Romans 15:5

2 Corinthians 1:3-5

 3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.

 4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.

 5 For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.

In 1897, The Reverend John Watson, who is better known by his nom de plume, Ian Maclaren, was invited by the popular religious newspaper, the British Weekly, to submit a Christmas message. His response was a single sentence: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Later the wording was changed to, “Be pitiful, for everyone is fighting a hard battle.”

Before the twentieth century, pitiful and kindness were nearly synonymous. Pitiful meant full of or characterized by pity, that is, compassionate, merciful, and tender.

During the difficult times of the COVID-19 pandemic, small acts of kindness made a world of difference. People reached out, again and again.

Another credo, originally coined in 1985 by Anne Herbert, became a rallying cry for many: “Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty.” Kindness was provided based upon need, not worth. “It’s not our job to play judge and jury, to determine who is worthy of our kindness and who is not. We just need to be kind, unconditionally and without ulterior motive, even – or rather, especially – when we’d prefer not to be” (Josh Radnor).


Being kind takes strength, courage, and genuine concern for the welfare of others.

Father encourage me to be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving in the same way that you have been to me. May my life reflect You in how I care and show pity to others.


In our fallen world, we often find ourselves engaged in unrelenting battles. We suffer doubts and fears. Past wounds and anger, which are not completely healed, cast their shadow into the present. We still react negatively, if not harshly to the recollection of past offenses and insults. We mistakenly believe we are over them, but our reactions tell a different story.

In time, we discover that the hard battles of others reflect our own difficulties. We become more sympathetic, even empathic. We come to terms with the reality of the Father’s truth.

James 1:20 Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.

There has to be a better way.

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

“Paul lays down the law of personal relationships – that we should treat others as Jesus Christ has treated us” (Barclay). Paul explains why this new approach to human relationships is now possible and doable. We follow the example of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are simply to do for others what He has already done for us. We have been immersed in redemptive forgiveness and transformational decontamination.

Paul’s thoughts expressed in Ephesians 4:32 are echoed and expanded in Colossians 3:12–13.

Colossians 3:12-13

 12 Clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you.

As a result of their renewal in Christ, Paul exhorts each child of the King to put off their old way of life and put on their new life that has been provided.

Paul begins by encouraging us to clothe ourselves with tenderhearted mercy and a heart of pity, that is compassion. Compassion is all about being aware of the struggles and suffering of others and having a desire to lessen it. “Compassion is often expressed in figurative language, for example, ‘your heart should go out to others,’ or ‘you should feel sorrow in your heart for others,’ or ‘you should weep in your insides because of others’” (UBS).

Compassion in turn leads to acting out kindness. That is we are to, “be kind to others” or “do good for others” (UBS). The Greek term translated as kindness is chrestotes. “The ancient writers defined chrestotes as the virtue of those whose neighbors’ good is as dear to them as their own” (Barclay). Kindness is all about looking outwards all the time rather than inwards.

When another person’s worth is removed from the equation, acting in a kind fashion often requires great courage and strength. Kindness embodies the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate in interpersonal relationships. Kindness is soft and gentle. It speaks the truth in love to reach out and help others.

21st century research has revealed that devoting resources to others, rather than having more and more for ourselves, brings about lasting well-being. Kindness has been found by researchers to be the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in relationships with others, particularly marriage. Many colleges, including Harvard, are now emphasizing kindness on applications for admission.

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see” (Mark Twain).

How does the Father prepare His children to show kindness and comfort others? He has a special school that is designed just to teach comforting. But the school has an unusual name and curriculum. It is the School of Sorrow. The school is part of lifelong learning and we never graduate.

This school features courses centered on trouble and and suffering. Remarkably, the Father is there in the midst of our struggles. As we go through them, the Father, the God of all comfort, comforts each of His children. He matches the specific comfort to the specific struggle.

As we are comforted, we learn to comfort others in the same way that we have been comforted by the Father. This is the purpose of His school. He prepares us to comfort others with the same comfort that we have received. Putting it in other terms, the Father helps us in our sorrows, in order that we might help others in their sorrows. As long as there are hard battles and consequent sorrows on planet Earth, He will keep us in school, so that we can comfort and help others.

When I was a boy and would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping” (Mr. Rogers).


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