When asked, most will say a person should be judged by what’s in their heart, not by their outward appearance. But that goes out the window when they see behaviour they find alarming. Behaviour they don’t understand.

In my own case, I was hurt by things said to me or done to me. Without the ability to stop myself I got angry, even experiencing emotional dysregulation at times. Because of that behaviour, the people around me started thinking of me as a bad person. I started to be treated as a bad person—with disrespect and anger. That increased the hurting. And, of course, more “misbehaviour” followed. How could it not? It became a vicious cycle.

I wasn’t a bad person at all. I had done a lot of good in my life before all this started occurring. Why was this happening? Inside, I felt like the good person I had always been. But I was helpless to change people’s view of me—to remind others of who I truly am. Eventually, all the good that people had known about me was forgotten. I lost my good reputation.

What I needed was compassion. What I needed was to be treated like the good person I had inside me.

Those who care, have it in them to show such compassion, despite the oft-scary emotional dysregulation, despite anger that sounds threatening. We need to remember that this behaviour is an expression of deep pain and requires a sympathetic response.

The previous piece describes how we can give such a response. The important thing is to give the person space to recover, while staying close. Encourage them to talk. Listening to a person express their pain is to acknowledge it, even to share in it. This is a good way to show compassion. It’s healing.

If this kind of caring response were to become common in our churches, we might be surprised at how much healing would be done.

Don’t forget to follow Jesus. He does not judge us on our outward appearance or behaviour. He sees who we are on the inside. He sees what’s in our heart. That’s where our real self is to be found.