Why Compassion?

Written by on November 11, 2020

A Review by Gabriel Garcia of Tim Costello’s The Cost of Compassion.

Tim Costello is a man of many experiences and could be considered an expert in compassion. A Baptist minister, Costello has had many leadership roles with arguably the most prominent being CEO of World Vision Australia and Mayor of St. Kilda, both roles which require care and compassion.  

In The Cost of Compassion Costello, drawing on his years of social justice work, he states plainly that compassion is more complicated than people like to make it seem. Though his compassion is deeply rooted in his Christian upbringing Costello readily admits that compassion and what it means to be compassionate is a contested topic.  

 An example Costello gives the reader is one nearly all of us have come across, whether or not to give money to someone begging on the street. Costello acknowledges that sometimes giving money may not be the best option and that the desire to be compassionate while being realistic can create conflicted feelings.  

However Costello also stresses that compassion need not manifest itself materially. Rather he refers to compassion coming in two types; hardware and software. Sometimes showing that you care and willing to listen is just as important as any act of material giving. He also notes from his personal experience in Sudan’s Darfur region, always being compassionate can lead to fatigue or, as in his case, physical ailment.   

Costello acknowledges that too much exposure to suffering can make us hardened to it. That for many it can be easier to give to a needy person overseas than to one in the same city. He highlights how more than 4000 Australian’s sponsor a child in India yet only 1000 Indians do the same.  

Throughout the book Costello seeks to answer questions regarding compassion, the human relationship with compassion and why there seems to be a deficit of it. Though many of the questions in the book are philosophical in nature they have real life consequences.   

The Cost of Compassion is a timely book on what it means to be compassionate and what the cost of compassion can be. Tim Costello has written a book that is both interesting and personal. 

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