The Cost of Compassion

Tim Costello brings a lifetime of experience to bear on the question: why is compassion so complicated?

“You won’t find anyone who actually says humans shouldn’t be compassionate. It then gets messy because we soon discover that we have different objects of compassion, priorities for compassion. It’s fascinating to me that, whether you’re on the right or left or in between, you will validate your political stand by appealing to compassion. So it is the universal benchmark – and yet, we still divide. And often divide quite bitterly.”

Tim Costello has spent decades trying to understand compassion – what it is, how it works – and also trying to live it out. His new book in CPX’s Re:CONSIDERING series is called The Cost of Compassion, and it sums up the lessons of a lifetime working with and for the vulnerable.

In this conversation, Tim tackles a few of the big questions: why is compassion so complicated? In an age of news overload, what do we do about compassion fatigue? And who is compassion for – who benefits from compassion, and who gets to show it to others?

“The misunderstanding that we often have about poverty and wealth is that people in extreme poverty are only recipients. I’d worked as a Baptist minister in St Kilda, and I’d discovered in an Aboriginal woman called Eva, who was the Mother Teresa of the streets of St Kilda – her giving away her last dollars, even though her pension cheque wouldn’t come for a week and she didn’t know how she was going to eat. And her joy – she had a Christian faith, she suffered from schizophrenia … she was a classic street woman, and she was the model of Jesus. So I actually knew this, in the joy in her life and the utter poverty by Australian standards of her life, even before I joined World Vision.” 

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