In a World Full of Fear, We Desperately Need Compassion

By Steve Austin | catching your breath

Jan 21

Grace Can Be Heard in Any Language

I finished teaching my weekly sign language class and felt my nerves subside. I’d been sick over this class, in particular, all day. Those who know me personally would find that odd, considering I’m a very outgoing person, entirely comfortable in front of a crowd, and I’ve taught classes and workshops all over the Southeast for several years.

But I had been physically sick over this class all day long.


Because some old friends of mine would be my special guests for the evening. These weren’t just any old friends. These were two of my very closest friends. Deaf mentors of mine for fifteen years and friends for more than twenty. I have called them my “second parents” for as long as I can remember.

So why the anxiety?

I hadn’t seen them in nearly five years. I had never even introduced them to my son (who was four at the time). These people who had me at their house countless times. Who invited me to join them for day trips and taught me sign language from the time I was twelve years old. He would drop everything to help me if I ever needed it, and she would drive half an hour every week to come to eat lunch with me at the middle school so I could practice sign language.

These folks had freely given me their time and their language. I have been professional sign language interpreter for the past ten years because this couple was so generous to me. I owe them a high debt of gratitude for the way they shaped my life.

But I had been sick to my stomach for hours over the thought of having to face them.

Sounds ridiculous, right?

That’s what fear does. Fear turns our stomachs inside out as it buries us under a truckload of irrational thoughts and behavior. Fear weighed on me like an overcoat in the summer I couldn’t seem to take off.


Because I hadn’t seen this couple since my suicide attempt. I hadn’t faced them since I lost my job. He didn’t even know. I was so scared of their disappointment. I feared they would no longer approve of me, just like so many others who didn’t know the full story.

I swallowed my fear for the duration of the class and picked up a mask I hadn’t worn in several years. I know how to perform. I am a master at “fake it til you make it,” and I used that old skill set last night. The class went as planned, and my students had a wonderful time. I was satisfied and ready to go home.

After the crowd left, the three of us walked to the parking lot together. My old friend, my mentor, this man who had been a father figure to me for so many years, dropped his countenance. His face was calm, and his eyes were gracious. I had seen this look many times before. He began to move his hands in a way that told me I was loved.

His fingers silently wove a tapestry of grace in the cool night air as he told me that he had heard the rumors, but those words meant nothing to him. “Because I know you. I know Steve,” he said to me. I thought the old man might cry as he let me know how glad he was that I made it through the suicide attempt. He asked me to no longer put him and his wife in the same boat as the others who had turned their backs or given up on me. He told me that he wasn’t interested in the gossip.

What he was saying is that I mattered. He did not believe the words of those who would spread judgment. He believed in me.

Do any of us really make a difference anymore? Find out here. via @iamsteveaustin #empathy #compassion #catchingyourbreath

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What about you? 

Has fear tried to separate you from those you love? Maybe not a person–perhaps a dream or gift you’ve run from. Like me, have you found your self-worth wrapped up in fear? If your self-worth has been torn down, empathy and compassion promise to build back up.

Perfect love continues to cast out fear as it shatters judgment.

Everyone makes an impact - whether they are acting intentionally or not. Everyone is always making an impact on one another. Your actions, my actions, and the actions of others are influencing the world. What you do matters in more ways than you may realize, and your efforts may create chaos or lead to grand achievements. The key is being intentional with your actions.

There is a principle of chaos theory called the Butterfly Effect. It states that a tiny initial action can cause a reaction of epic proportions. The metaphorical example is that the simple movement of a butterfly’s wings over time can create a wave that results in a hurricane.

This is an illustration of how important even the smallest of actions are in the grand scheme of the world. As someone living on this planet, you too have an effect everywhere you go. What you do and how you do it matters. You matter. You are as vital to the success of the human race as the most powerful influencer you can imagine. Have you ever considered this?

The set of people and places where you make the most impact is called your sphere of influence. This is the where your presence is felt the most. Your sphere likely includes your family, work, and the local community.

What you do matters. Here's why. via @iamsteveaustin #catchingyourbreath #empathy #compassion

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How are you making that impact? Consider this:

  • How you parent your children makes an impact.
  • How you manage your marriage makes an impact.
  • How you engage as a son, daughter, sister, or brother makes an impact.
  • What you contribute to your workforce makes an impact.
  • What you create makes an impact.
  • Your wisdom makes an impact.
  • How you vote makes an impact.
  • How you spend your time and money makes an impact.
  • How you pour yourself into others makes an impact.

I could go on and on, but you’re starting to see my point. In all that you do, you matter. How you do things matters. It is all tied together. This may seem like a big responsibility - and it is - but it isn’t too big when you break it down into manageable bits and pieces, in all the different areas of your life.

The most important thing to realize is that you have influence and impact wherever you go, and by being intentional, you can leave your mark on the world in a favorable and meaningful way.

Grace shows up in unlikely places if we keep our hearts and minds open. What fear buries, empathy resurrects. Fear pushed me to withdraw from precious friends for years, but compassion promises to redeem the lost time. Fear convinced me to lump these friends with everyone else who had hurt me, but grace is a reconciler.

I wish the whole world could be deafened to the noise of condemnation the way I was that night. Grace can be heard in any language.

What fear buries, empathy resurrects. via @iamsteveaustin #compassion #catchingyourbreath

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The Transformative Power of Empathy and Compassion

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About the Author

Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.

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