Self-Complacence vs. a Real Compassion for My Neighbor

Objective Truth Series – reflections article #6

The last reflection showed how self-complacence is such a poison for souls because it leads to pride.  Because self-complacence is a satisfaction with oneself, it naturally leads one to think less of his neighbor.  This is why St. Paul warns us when he says, “Let nothing be done through contention[1]: neither by vain glory: but in humility, let all esteem others better than themselves” (Philippians, 2:3). 

The devil, having an angelic nature, knows how to trap us poor humans.  We must remember that the devil was the highest angel and his nature didn’t change with his fall, albeit that he is blind with his pride.  The devil tempted Eve with pride, and Adam fell through pride, by caring more about Eve than he did about God.  Thus, humans, through the fall of Adam, are blind.  The will is blind and needs the intellect to inform it, and pride is blind, thus, we have a sort of double blindness. 

And in this double blindness, it is so easy to get comfortable with ourselves and think that, after all, we are not so bad.  We fall into finding fault in our neighbor and not finding any fault(s) in ourselves.  As Our Lord said, we tend to look for motes in our brother’s eye and not see the beam in our own eye.

We can even think that we want to help our neighbor and instruct him on some point.  Yet, do we think carefully on whether it is our place to instruct him?  If we conclude that we should in charity instruct our neighbor, and/or stand up for the Faith, what steps do we take in our plan of action?  Do we consider ourselves carefully as St. Paul also warns, “Brethren, and if a man be overtaken in any fault, you who are spiritual instruct such a one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” (Galatians, 6:1).

One way to have a deeper mistrust of ourselves is to ask ourselves about our own motives for wanting to instruct another; to be sure that we really want to instruct for God’s glory and not our own. (e.g. “Am I seeking praise or recognition?”)

If we conclude that we want to instruct truly for God’s greater glory, then we must be careful about the method we use to instruct or help our neighbor as St. Paul further warns, “Bear ye one another’s burdens; and so you shall fulfill the law of Christ.  For if any man think himself to be something, whereas he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.”  Galatians, 6:2-3.  Again, St. Paul warns us, “Put ye on, therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, the bowels of mercy, benignity, humility, modesty, patience: bearing and forgiving one another, if any have a complaint against another: even as the Lord hath forgiven you, so do you also.  But above all these things have charity, which is the bond of perfection” (Colossians, 3:2-14).

Thus, we must work for our neighbor with forbearance, patience, and mercy.  Obviously, one way to do this is to find out all we can about what our neighbor understands about the topic of instruction.  Then we can patiently work at our neighbor’s level and bring him slowly to the level of understanding which God has been so merciful to have given us.  (It may even happen that it is we ourselves who are ignorant of the truth and our neighbor actually ends up instructing us.)

In addition to these points, we should carefully consider our neighbor’s perspective based on his gender, temperament, background, upbringing, past experiences, and habits.  Then we can more easily put ourselves in his shoes in order to understand and compassionate him; thus imitating Our Lord.  “The Lord is merciful and compassionate: long-suffering and plenteous in mercy.”  Ps. 102:8.

This shows our neighbor our charity towards him, and that we are not looking down on him or pre-judging him.  Our neighbor can then feel that charity which is “the bond of perfection” of which St. Paul speaks.  Furthermore, our actions would also show our neighbor that we take St. Paul’s warning against contention seriously, and we want to be cautious and avoid becoming puffed up.

Our Lord not only had empathy (putting Himself in our shoes, as it were), but He actually took on human nature and became a man.  This also shows that He had more than empathy for us, but namely, compassion for us – so much so that He actually suffered and died for us.

Dear reader, is it not wonderful that Our Lord has shown us such wonderful examples of how we can be compassionate towards our neighbor and work in His Vineyard for love of Him!  Yet, with fear and trembling we do our work for Him and beg His mercy for us and our neighbor, saying, perhaps:

Oh Divine Lord, please do help me,

Compassionate on others be,

Without Thy help, I can know naught,

The truth I know, Thou hast me taught.


In these sad times, of such great need,

When souls are seeking the good seed,

Fill my heart with mercy like Thee,

So, Thy mercy, others can see.


We all need kind understanding,

And patience in befriending,

Forbearance Thou didst likewise show,

Thou wouldst for perfection to grow.

[1]           Contention = to strive in opposition or rivalry; to compete, to vie; to strive for superiority.