Compassion is Bad

“Compassion is bad, very bad,”  our lawyer said. She continued to explain what she has observed as the mindset of the judges presiding over the adoptions here in Cochabamba.

“If you go to the judge and say to her, ‘We want to adopt an older child because we have seen through our experience in running an orphanage that the older children do not get adopted as much as the babies do,’ they will see that as an act of compassion and not as an act of love. Furthermore, they will not grant you the adoption if those are the motives you express.”

I was shocked. My understanding of what adoption is has been challenged time and again and this is one of the biggest clashes I have had thus far. We told her that we would like to allow Bolivia to assign us a child (instead of us being the ones to choose the child). This was a big enough hurdle to climb over. Glory to God I can say with confidence that I am indeed over it. I am ok with letting God work through the Bolivian system to get our daughter to us. Now I am hearing that we can only be assigned a child younger than our youngest biological child?

The understanding is that the only legitimate motive (according to the perception of our lawyer in her experience with the judges) for wanting to adopt is that you want to become a parent again. And if you want to become a parent again then, logically with the nine months of pregnancy, the new son or daughter will be younger than your youngest child.

Our lawyer is very good. She has much experience and is very interested in making this adoption happen as quickly and efficiently as possible for us. We are very glad she is our lawyer. She made a trip to the capital city this week to do some important paperwork for us. We are thankful that there were no hitches with it. Now she is telling us that by the middle of this week we will be able to present our desire to adopt to the courts. That means they will begin the home studies, amongst other things. Within a month we could have a child assigned to our family. With that assignment we are able to proceed with the three court hearings, the presentation of our legal documents and the final investigations by social services (which takes about two months altogether). Barring any unforeseen difficulties we could have this process finished in three months.

As long as we are willing to relinquish our compassion. As long as we are willing to say to them that we will take a child younger than our two-year-old. As long as we are willing to trust that God is the one who has started this work and he will accomplish it.

Do you know what? We are willing. Do you understand? We are willing. We just want our daughter.

I told the lawyer that we are going to present our request for a girl somewhere between the ages of zero months and four years. Then I said to her that we are going to pray and we will have the child that God wants us to have. She gave me a spirited and hopeful, “Yes, that is what we are going to do.”

Our understanding about the effects of compassion on a society are obviously different. This might explain some of the disgusted looks we receive from nationals when they hear that we are adopting or that we run an orphanage. Clutches of shame grip the people. They are ashamed so they hide, as they are hiding they shun the acts of those that bring the truths to light so that the issues may be addressed. It is difficult for me to put into words the awful and tremendous force of embarrassment so prevalent here. That is the only explanation I have for why it would be assumed that acts of compassion are ignoble.

I can accept their perception, but I do not have to adopt their perception. Cultural identification is a fine line we walk every day. When do I cede? When do I stand rigid? Can I see clearly enough to know that I am making the good choice in this very moment? Are the criss-crosses of my moral strainer too tiny? Do I filter in vain? This is culture shock. It hit me this week.

It used to be that culture shock took place on a very superficial level: food, shopping, language, dress, manners and weather. Now those things don’t even phase me. The adjustments I am having to evaluate touch a very much deeper level. We are contemplate things like: gender roles in society, child rearing, political infrastructure, ingrained concepts of God, and definitions of words like compassion. One little word with implications that shook me to my core. My analytical brain has to force away the elementary question: how many words are there in the Spanish language?

Shall we end on a good note? I think so. Our adoption is closer now then it has ever been. The pace has picked up and will continue to do so in these coming months. I am hopeful. I have made the adjustments in my thinking that allow me to continue loving the Bolivian people without resenting them. In fact, I am glad for this new knowledge so that I may connect with the hearts of the people I have chosen to make my own.



21 thoughts on “Compassion is Bad

  1. The title to your blog threw me for a tailspin and reading your post just boggled my mind!! No wonder you’ve had a challenging week dealing with such a huge difference in thought patterns!! The “logic” of the Bolivian social service system is intriguing. You have parents wanting to adopt older children, yet you give them a toddler?? HELLO?? WOWZERS!

    But I agree, you’re learning priceless lessons of culture that most missionaries would probably not ever see unless they too were walking through the adoption process. I too pray that these lessons will help you understand and minister to the Bolivian people that much better!

    Thank God that He’s in control and knows exactly what child is perfect for the Washingtons!! Ultimately it’s all in His hands anyway. Thank God we put our trust in Him and not the Bolivian social service system!

    You are blanketed in prayers by many. Am continuing to believe in God’s FAVOR poured out on you, especially for this adoption!

    Hang in there!! Big, big, big hugs!!!
    And I am STILL believing I will be meeting your new daughter in July!!

  2. just popping in o say I really enjoyed reading this. You’ve given e a lot to ponder this morning! (I love pondering in the mornings while everyone else in my house is sleeping… :) )

  3. Libby – That would just be so beautiful to have her by the time you come.

    Amy E. – Glad to provide you ponder fodder.

    Natalie – That is just it, I don’t know if we are being smart or not. Here’s hoping.

    Danielle – Love you too. Thank you for your encouragement.

  4. Angie, I love these little glimpses into your life. I’m glad to see that you are at peace with this. God will ensure that the right child makes it into your home and heart.


  5. I am right there with you on the culture shock shaking my core sometimes AND I am very excited that you continue to take steps toward having your little girl brought home. Thank you God!

  6. I’ve also seen compassion seen as a bad thing in the area of the world we work in. I’m not sure why, really. It seems some incidents of compassion are seen as good and some are seen as bad. I wonder if it is because they see compassion as making you “weak” and others can take advantage of you then. Much of life is devoted to being strong, a “man”, and not able to be tricked. And they also fear that people use your compassion to trick you.

    But other times, compassion is seen as good. Yet, even when it is, it is usually an act not really of true compassion, but a good deed to earn merit. People do not applaud the compassion and join with feeling compassion for the object of a good deed. Instead, they feel respect and honor for the do-er of the compassionate deed, and applaud him. The object of compassion is still seen as worthless, but the do-er of a good deed is lauded and praised everywhere.

    I think part of it, here, is that people believe that fate rules. God or fate has given the way things are. If someone is poor, suffering, or in pain – they deserved it. Obviously, God wants it, so why should I interfere? Obviously, God thinks they are worthless, so I should too.

    It is an attitude that is hard for me to face. Hard also to show compassion, and people turn their backs on the ones helped and just compliment you for your “good deeds” and tell you that you must really be looking for a big reward.

  7. Angie,
    I thank God for bringing you through these hard times. This is how he builds strength. And to see how you have already identified the lessons you are learning and to see you starting to incorperate those lessons into who you are shows great wisdom, maturity, and wonderful surrender to God. Thank you for setting a good example.
    And I am sooooo excited to hear that my new niece will soon be a member of our family.
    I will continue to pray.
    lil sis

  8. OK, total pregnancy pains. Just like doctors might occassionally give bogus input. Compassion is why we all love you. Period. And it is your compassion that has you and your Mr. listing to Christ, with an address in a foreign land, loving on your orphans, family and soon to be daughter. I am glad you are sharing this with us. Helps us know how to pray and processing is healthy. Since you are pregnant, maybe you should put your feet up and relax! :) Are your feet sweeling? :0) He, he.


  9. Becky – It is in God’s hands.

    Julie – One step at a time.

    Ellie – That is so true what you say about the doer of the deed being the focal point. It is also true the struggle we have in the face of the reaction of others to the acts of compassion that we do realize.

    Shawn – Your prayers are so important; thank you for them.

    Roxx – Ha! Feet swelling, that is a good one. I appreciate your prayers.

  10. Wow – this was very interesting to me – I wonder if compassion has become something people are calloused to as a motive because there are so many needs surrounding us? I will be praying for the ongoing process and for you all as you confront many different frustrations in the name of compassion and love.

  11. Don’t you think America’s “compassion is good” assumption could use some re-thinking as well, though? I see a lot of Christians committing random acts of kindness while neglecting real love and effective service. All cultures fall short of God’s glory in this.

    At a recent home-based sales event I attended – jewelry, in this case – the salesperson boasted about how much money the company gave to “missions.” Missions? What does that mean? Is it all good just because it’s “missions”? When I asked where the products were made she was just as pleased to tell us they all came from the good ol’ USA. I think I’d rather support something that’s more directly employing hurting folks from someplace else.

    Navigating culture, exercising compassion, managing a business in a way that brings glory to God, or, for that matter, carrying out a ministry strategy – these things can get so complicated. So glad Jesus has mercy on us!

  12. Julie – Even if you asked people ‘why’ I don’t know that they could verbalize it. I am stumped. Thanks for your prayers, friend.

    Marti – Ah, the great debate about the definition of mission. An oldie but a goody. I am inclined to think that something is better than nothing and give people the benefit of the doubt. I understand that blanketing a minimalistic effort with the word ‘missions’ can be damaging to the ones who are actually out there doing good things. Still, who am I to judge? It is a hard call to make.

  13. Sorry, to hear that you experience culture clash. This is a difficult topic. I keep rereading your post, the comments, and want to say more about it. Maybe another time, or on my own blog.

  14. Wow. The world sure doesn’t understand the ways of God. But He put this plan on your hearts for a reason, so He knows that the outcome is more about one little (big) life He has in mind, not the ‘possible’ thousands. God works that way sometimes. Boggles the mind. Divine compassion in operation. Saving the ‘one.’

    Thanks for being you and continually stopping by my blog. I’m in a … stormy season. I haven’t got to blogging as much as I’d like, and I miss all my friends on the blogosphere. It’s good to see an update on your lives – I’m only sad I’m late hearing it. Love you, Angie. Have a blessed weekend. :)


  15. Angie,
    I have been away for so long it seems, it is good to be back!
    Lots to share so soon!
    My heart soars for you and your family that this process has picked up it’s pace. I pray that as you rely on God to pick your new daughter that he will have impecable choice like he did the first four times:-)

  16. some great comment dialogue here.

    in the face of it all, i hear hope and faith in your words. in your heart.

    your daughter is closer today than she was yesterday!

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