Note:  I was recently invited to serve as the guest speaker at my home church's morning worship services. Naturally, the topic needed to be Biblically -based and congregationally relevant. Because of my conviction that compassion is so extremely important to healthy relationships, I decided to present a lesson featuring Jesus as the Master Model for compassion. Hopefully, the following material will be helpful to you as you examine your current level of compassion and as you explore ways to improve the role of compassion in all of your relationships. -- Dr. Bill Baker (07/26/2011) 


                                                             "Filled with compassion . . . "                                                                             

We don’t know who he was; we don’t even know his name.  Yet we do know what he needed.  The man was a victim of the most dreaded disease in the ancient world—leprosy! 
While the full extent of his leprosy is uncertain, it is known that his body was covered by the loathsome disease.  Like most lepers, this man was literally dying a living death.  He could only watch and suffer as increasing amounts of his flesh rotted and died before his very eyes. No doubt he had already lost several fingers and toes. No doubt his body reeked with the repulsive stench of decaying flesh. In the midst of it all, very little could be done for his constant, agonizing pain.
Added to the physical pain was the emotional pain of social rejection. Categorized as an “unclean person” and forced to live in isolation, the leper was indeed a social outcast. The deep, despairing loneliness must have felt overwhelming at times.
The leper’s physical and emotional pain was worsened by one tragic fact:  his illness was incurable.    Every new day brought a hopeless dawn. Every sunset was stained with the blood of his pain. For this leper there was no way out; there was no hope.


                                     Part Two:  “Traveling with a Resolution Roadmap”     

                                          “A conflict resolved is a marriage restored.”
Unresolved conflict threatens the health of any marriage relationship. When couples travel on their marital journey with ongoing conflict, they risk dangerous collisions and harmful breakdowns. While remaining unresolved, the conflict often leads to relationship destruction and marital dissolution. Conversely, couples who learn to manage conflict in a mature, meaningful manner are able to protect the relationship they vowed to maintain. Simply put, a conflict resolved is a marriage restored!
In Part One I introduced the benefit of having in place a relationship conflict resolution roadmap. In this article (Part Two) I’d like to provide a number of thoughts, tips, and tools that can help you develop your personal roadmap for your unique situation. No one roadmap will fit every couple; however, with adaptation a basic roadmap can become an important resource for “roadside assistance” as you continue to travel in your relationship journey. 
The roadmap I’d like for you to consider contains several key components. The roadmap begins with a “Purpose” statement that clarifies your goal in regard to your marital conflict. Secondly, there is a section on “Preparation” that helps you to “set the stage” for conflict-oriented discussions. Thirdly, you’ll develop a “Process” section that lays out the specific steps you’ll agree to take in order to resolve your conflict through effective decision-making. Fourthly, you’ll identify and list certain “Provisions” that will represent your “rules of the road” for safe relationship travel. The fifth and final section is the “Promise” statement you and your spouse will develop and use as your personal commitment to the total roadmap. Obviously, you have the freedom to modify these sections as you deem wise, based upon your unique circumstances and needs. Try to keep your roadmap as simple and short as possible, yet long enough to contain the skills and safeguards you need for resolution success. Let’s look now at each of these five components.

                                     Part One:  “Traveling without a Resolution Roadmap”     

                                          “I will win every argument—whatever it takes!”
The angry husband left no doubt about his intention. When a conflict arose between him and his wife and an argument ensued, he was always determined to win. “I’ll say anything or do anything, but I have to win the argument.” He did not deny his wife’s complaints about his verbal abuse which admittedly was part of his vicious arsenal. It was no wonder that his wife was feeling hurt and hopeless and was one step away from filing for divorce. It was also no wonder that therapy was not an option for him. There was no need; he had no problem—nothing to repair, nothing to resolve. Realistically, the self-proclaimed “king of the hill” was one step away from a lonely lifestyle on top of his new home, “Divorce Mountain.” 
I could not help but wonder why any woman would agree to marry a man with such an unhealthy belief system about marital conflict as that man presented. Infatuation may have blinded her to the negative aspects of their relationship. Perhaps, like many people who are madly in love, she naively believed that ‘if we love each other, everything has to work out okay.” It could have been that, like most couples, they never took the time before the wedding to discuss openly and frankly their views about marital conflict. It’s also possible that she might have said, “I guess I’m just a glutton for punishment.” At any rate, that couple was in serious trouble and their relationship was sinking fast!


           Part Two:  "Beating Impulsiveness”
          “How can I stop my impulsiveness?”
This simple question reflects a complicated battle with a powerful enemy. The question also implies a personal desire to gain vital self-control. Unfortunately, many people drive along the highway of life with impairments caused by impulsiveness. Their impulsive patterns throw up obstacles in their roadway that too often result in breakdowns or collisions. Health, employment, relationships—all are at risk and under siege by the tyrannical Impulsiveness who wants to control and rule our lives.  Repeated failures to stop the impulsive pattern confirm the difficulty of the warfare they’ve been battling. Impaired by impulsiveness people can sink to a level at which they feel despaired regarding improvement. Thus, the question is crucial and even critical:  “How can I stop my impulsiveness?” Or, put differently, “How can I look before I leap?” 


              Part One: “Battling Impulsiveness”
            “Sometimes I just don’t think about consequences.”
With those words the boy (let’s call him John) tried to explain why he had gotten into trouble at school. Another student had annoyed him so John hit the kid over the head with his notebook. The incident led to a visit to the principal’s office and ISS (In-School-Suspension), followed by additional restrictions imposed by his frustrated parents. Unfortunately, the incident was not the first time John had reacted inappropriately to his fellow students. In describing the incident he said, “Sometimes I think about the consequences, and sometimes I just don’t think about consequences.” In other words John was very prone to “leap before he looked.”
John’s example is typical of arguments and fights initiated by kids and adults who battle with impulsiveness. They say things and do things without considering the negative consequences. They may feel remorseful afterwards but the damage has already been done. An impulsive person is definitely an “accident looking for a place to happen.” The least provocation can trigger an instant reaction that is harmful and hurtful. One impulsive man admitted “I don’t act, I just react.” Acting without regard to consequences is a behavioral pattern that lies at the heart of impulsiveness.


                                           “Anger:  The Challenge” (Part 4 of 4)
        “But I'm too stressed out to control my anger."
With that frank admission the man (let’s arbitrarily call him Tom) acknowledged his struggle with the Anger Beast. His negative environment at work and his family problems at home were definitely not cooperating well with him. As Tom described the multiple mistakes he had made and the miserable messes he was experiencing, I could see how his inner stress was at a high level. To make matters worse his descriptions reflected a style of self-talk that was igniting his inner stress into major anger explosions or “Tom Tantrums.” I could easily see why he was ready to learn how to manage the Anger Beast. 
Tom’s story is certainly not unusual. Stress overload or unmanaged stress presents a huge challenge to effective anger management. As we combine our stress with a certain type of unhealthy thinking (or self-talk), we compound the problem that confronts and challenges us. Let’s explore this important connection between our levels of stress and our styles of self-talk, along with the equation they create for the development of anger issues.

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