Chaplaincy and Pastoral Counseling / General CBF

Why pastoral care requires compassion: Carla Cherry

This blog post comes from CBF-Endorsed Chaplain, Carla Cherry in celebration of Pastoral Care Week. Chaplain Cherry, MDiv. ThM. BCC, is a chaplain for Geriatrics and Extended Care Line in Columbus, Ohio.

Pastoral care is rooted in Nouwen’s definition of compassion.

“The word “compassion’ as Nouwen points out, comes from the Latin words pate and cum which together mean “to suffer with.” Nouwen continues: Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into places of pain, to share in the brokenness, fear, confusion and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.”

My most effective and fulfilling moments in Pastoral Care have been when I allowed myself to be most compassionate.

There was the moment when an employee came into my office. She was overwhelmed with grief from the death of her teenage son. Compassion came when I set aside my plans for the day to be in the moment and experience grief with this lady. To listen, support, encourage, and be present with her in her time of need.

There were also the moments spent with a young mother of two children who chose non-conventional treatment for life threatening cancer because of her faith in God. While those who practice conventional medicine do not understand her choice, we must listen to her request and support her along this difficult journey.

It is through such times as these difficult and painful human life experiences that I continue to feel powerless, weak and vulnerable.  These feelings, as challenging as they are, involve becoming aware of the strengths in those who experience loss, and to identify the rewards of supporting them through the grieving process. Also, it allows me to continue to learn the valuable lesson of demonstrating true compassion and thus provide pastoral care more effectively with total dependence on God.

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