Compassion in the book “Tattoos on the Heart”

Compassion is defined as response to the anguish of others that inspires a desire to help. It stimulates individuals to come out of their “comfort zones” to help spiritual, physical and emotional hurt of another person. An emotional aspect is often attached to compassion.  Thus, the adage that ‘compassion is a verb’ is an absolute truth. It is a necessity without which human being cannot survive. Some of the notable figures in history who were driven by compassion, rather than need for luxury, include; Jesus Christ, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and presently, Father Greg Boyle, the author of “Tattoos on the Heart.” This book is a classic urban reportage and a modern-day depiction of spirituality. It features Father Greg, a Jesuit priest, running Homeboy Industries, the largest intervention program for gangs offering tattoo removal, job training and employment opportunities for members of enemy gang. His ministry is considered the most successful in Los Angeles in engaging with individuals caught up in gang life. For more than 2 decades, Boyle lived and worked with gang members in Los Angeles, a habitat to 1,100 gangs with a membership of up to 86, 000. Boyle depicts that compassion is fueled by love and kindness. He says that “kindness is the only strength there is.” This article is an essay presenting three reasons for showing compassion as an act of obedience to God’s command, a way of imitating Jesus as the perfect role model and to make the world a better place by eliminating enmity in accordance to the book, “Tattoos on the Heart.

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First, showing compassion is part of God’s law that humanity must obey.  To love God is to obey his commandment. Thus, loving humanity to the extent of being compassionate to other people is obedience to him. The author often makes reference on Jesus, a personality in history who was driven by compassion. Jesus explained to his followers that the greatest command is to love God wholeheartedly and then loving a neighbor more than self. Boyle believes that by loving God, humans can be imbued with compassion and intervene on the welfare of those suffering in the society. Boyle’s ministry symbolized the true nature of compassion. For more than 20 decades, his ministry asked the neighborhood, “What if the city were to make investment in gang members instead of just seeking to incarcerate them to eliminate this problem?”. Boyle airs his major intention of depicting the image of God as love. As mentions earlier, love fuels compassion. By illustrating God’s perspective and agenda on humanity, he calls on his readers to embrace compassion and respond to the suffering of people in their environs. He points out that there is now way one can tell others that God loves them and yet it seems that he/she is not fully part of them. God’s compassionate hand is revealed to constantly reaching out to embrace people. The author insists that one’s has to corporate with God’s compassion on him. The fact that many people cannot understand God hinders their ability to benefit from God’s compassionate works. For instance, Boyle illustrates that God’s intention is to given assurance and peace as well as sense of well-being awaiting willingness for humans to cooperate with his limitless magnanimity. Additionally, Boyles indicates that God’s unconditional love is the reason for his limitless compassion. God’s nature of compassion is shown to supersede human’s which is limited. Men have a tendency of judging others and adopting individualistic lifestyle. But in God’s eyes, no part of man’s mess blocks him from his compassion. He says, “Where people stand, in all imperfection and mistakes, is holy ground. It is the place where God set apart to enhance intimacy with human being”. Obedience to God’s command was Boyle’s driving force to intervening to help a group of people that are often neglected by community. Therefore, compassion is depicted as God’s command to humans on earth that all humans must obey by reaching out to the poor and neglected without conditions and limitations. 

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Second reason for showing compassion is trying to imitate Jesus’ way of showing compassion as the most effective model. Chapter three of the book depicts God as a compassionate being. Boyle point out that all people have to be in the world is who God is. It means that the more a person loves God the more compassionate a person becomes. Jesus was the perfect role model and the evidence of imitating him is showing compassion. The author shows that compassion was the actual wallpaper of the soul of Jesus, his true nature and the contour of his heart. He encourages his readers to show compassion by quoting other sources. For example, “let people assume that the answer to each question is compassion”. Jesus is pointed out as the principal figure who demonstrated compassion is his life. He was moved to heal, preach and pray for people because he pitied them. In one occasion, he fed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish. After taking note of their hunger and the fact that the crowd could not go back to their homes to eat, he was prompted to perform a miracle to meet the physical needs of the people. Boyle demonstrates that Jesus created space for everybody in his compassion such that it became the basic fabric of his ministry on earth. Unlike many people in the world today who show compassion to gain fame or out of abundance of their resources, Boyle shows that compassion entails helping others without caring about the benefits, evidenced by the way he selflessly dedicated his life towards helping gang. Therefore, the urge to be like the Jesus is a great reason to people who believe in God to show compassion to the community around them because it is the most effective model of serving neglected groups in society. 

Thirdly, showing compassion is a way of making the world a better place and eliminating enmity. The world would eventually become a better place if enmity between people, nations and communities was eliminated through acts of compassion. For instance, Jesus told his followers to love their foes and find spaciousness for the victim as well as victimizer. Gangs are people who often inflict pain to the society and can as well be categorized as enemies of peace in the society. Boyle’s involvement in their affair validates this reason for compassion. In conjunction, people ought to seek compassion that recognizes what the poor goes through than standing in judgment at how the carry it.  The highlight of this discussion is reference to Jesus who was not a man seeking to help others but was one with others. He mentions Mother Teresa who noted that humanity has forgotten their attachment to each other. One of the challenges is neglecting kinship of which if it was the goal of humanity, then people would not be promoting justice but celebrate it. Mother Teresa went down in history as a person who demonstrated the true nature of compassion through her hospitality. Therefore, compassion is demonstrated in the book as a virtue that can transform a community where vices occur into a hub of good deeds just like a community full of gang activities when embraced.

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In conclusion, this essay presents three reasons why compassion is the main subject matter discussed in the book. People should show compassion as obedience to God’s law, a way of imitating God’s effective way of reaching to humanity limitlessly and making the world a better place by fostering good relationship with enemies. Father Greg Boyle demonstrates the three reasons when he defied the odds to reach out to a gang in Los Angeles. Therefore, compassion is a great virtue in society that would influence the world positively.

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