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Done with Drive-By Compassion

I’m confident you’ve heard that old saying, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” The whole idea is when the going gets tough, the tough get going and whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. You know, there are a thousand of them.

Hardships and bad things happen and we’ve collected a million sayings that don’t offer much help.

  • How do I make this lemonade out of life’s lemons?
  • What if I absolutely despise lemonade (which I do)?
  • Where am I going exactly when things get tough?
  • Cutting my toenails doesn’t kill me, but how does it make me stronger exactly?

I know we want to have answers when people need us, and most genuinely want to help people.

We get our sayings ready (“It’s always darkest before the dawn, you know”) or we bust out a pertinent scripture memorized in Sunday school (“You can do all things through Christ… this too shall pass”).

These things are supposed to induce comfort, but the looming questions of “how” don’t get resolved so easily. Someone has to be willing to pay the price in their time, emotions, or commitment to walk through something with someone.

Years ago, I watched a show called, Destroyed in Seconds, on the Discovery Channel. In one clip, I watched as a daredevil motorcycle guy attempted a jump that would have broken the world’s distance record. He was having trouble getting up speed because of the wet grass, but finally he took to the ramp and soared through the air.

Besides the name of the show, you could see almost immediately that he was in no way going to make it to the flatbed trailers they had set up to receive him. Seeing he wasn’t going to make it, he let go of the bike, saving his life, and slammed into the rig below. His body twisted and writhed around the beams along with the bike. It was horrifying and awful. I literally cupped both my hands over my face (as they showed it 3 times and then in slow-mo).

Imagine someone goes to visit this poor man in the hospital after he regains consciousness and throws out every cliche in the book. He also slyly managed to criticize the man for attempting such a risky venture in the first place. Then this visitor leaves and never gives a second thought to this hurting, destroyed human being, physically and otherwise.

Another person comes after, but this one sees the injured man and genuinely cares. This visitor finds a nurse to help when he’s struggling to sit up. He then calmly and patiently listens as the driver describes his fear and anxiety over his future and choices. The visitor offers hope where he can and supports however possible then promises to walk with him through the long road of recovery, physical therapy, and getting back on his feet.

Obviously we know which one shows true compassion, but it’s so easy to fall into the first category–especially when it’s not as serious as this. We may not know anyone who survived a crazy stunt gone wrong, but we know plenty of people who need our compassion (not pity), our hands and heart (not judging), and our time and commitment (not guilt-induced performance).

I’m convinced drive-by compassion is no compassion at all. Quoting the right Scripture at the right time is a great skill but not nearly as important as living that Scripture at the right time for the person who needs you.

Being a knowledge Pez-dispenser is much easier and much less heartbreaking than walking with someone through their victories and their trials.

You may have the truth. You may speak the truth. But without love to back it up, it’s just noise and doesn’t produce good things (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). We reduce the greatest truth to a cliche when we fail to demonstrate the reality of it.

I may not be able to walk with everyone, but I can walk with some while encouraging others to do the same.

What are your thoughts on this? Have you been guilty as I have of drive-by compassion? Have you been the recipient of it?


  1. I do try hard to avoid the cliches which people love to spout off. Such a waste to someone who is hurting! I also try hard to “be there” for someone. I know I have failed, perhaps giving an initial effort but then time and schedule or their lack of desire takes its toll. Its hard to show compassion. It requires something of us! BTW: I feel the same way about lemonade. Only when i can mix it with tea (like an Arnold Palmer) is it worth drinking. Makes me thirsty just thinking about it.
    Bill (cycleguy) recently posted..DreamerMy Profile

    • Bill, I’m absolutely certain I’ve failed way more than I’ve excelled at this. You are so right too--it’s hard when someone doesn’t seem to care or wants to continue wallowing for long periods of time. And yet, somehow by His grace and love abiding in us, we can be conduits of compassion. That’s what I hold onto! And on your other note, I’ve had Arnold Palmers just a few times, but definitely better than plain lemonade. 🙂 Thanks Bill.

  2. “Living that Scripture at the right time for the person who needs you.”
    This sums it up beautifully, Jason. And I’m with you -- drive-by compassion isn’t compassion at all.

    • It’s easy to think something is better than nothing, but it’s really not in this case. I’ve been guilty for a whole host of reasons, but I want to live out His true compassion--only going to happen by growing in and loving Him first. Thanks Martha. Blessings to you!

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