Compassion for the Unlovable (Especially My Mother)

Guest Post by Susan Tolles

The Bible is full of stories about mercy and compassion. In the Old Testament, God showed compassion on mankind when He spared Noah and his family, when He led the Israelites out of Egypt in spite of their continued sin, and when he raised Lazarus from the dead. God’s ultimate compassion is shown to Abraham who was so faithful to the Father that he was going to sacrifice his own son. God’s mercy and compassion spared Isaac and provided a worthy substitute.  This is a vivid picture of His ultimate compassion for us, when He gave his Son Jesus in atonement for our sins.

In the New Testament Jesus shows compassion to the sick, the sinners, and the outcast. He lived every day showing love and forgiveness to everyone he met, even the unlovable. So, with all these stories that I have known in my heart since I was a child, why was it so hard for me to show compassion to my own mother?

I was adopted as a newborn, and raised as an only child. My adoptive mother and I were a mismatch in personality, and we never really bonded like mothers and children do. Our relationship was rocky, to put it mildly, and even when I was a much wiser and more patient adult, I never considered her “lovable.” I believe clinical depression permeated her family and with that, combined with the scars of  “living in the Depression Era” (about which she frequently reminded me), she was never joyful.  I desperately wanted a mother who was nurturing and fun, someone with whom I could be close friends later in life.  What I had was someone I really didn’t like.

After my father’s death, it became necessary for my mother to move closer to us. Her health was declining and living alone just wasn’t a good plan for her. We found an assisted living facility nearby, and she moved in with the expectation that she would see us daily.  In the beginning I was there regularly, but my visits became more sporadic as time passed. We had a ‘love-hate” relationship that would blow up at times, and was congenial at others. The worst came on my 50th birthday when she accused me of stealing from her investment account. Yes, she could have been a character in one of Jesus’ parables about showing compassion and love to the needy, the aging and the sick.

In her last few months, her health declined rapidly. She spent three of her last five weeks in the hospital, and then she was moved to a nursing home. I still remember the day before she died, when I walked into her room and she was sitting by the window in her wheelchair. She was slumped over like a withering flower, and she hardly knew I was there. My heart broke to see her like this, and compassion flooded my soul. Finally I saw her as the child of God she was, and felt great sorrow for her. In that moment, I was able to forgive her for the way she had acted throughout my life and to let go of the anger that I’d held inside for so long.

I realize now that I never asked God to help me love my mother. I never asked Him to replace my anger with mercy, and to bring us closer together. I had spent more than 50 years wishing for something that would never be, instead of looking for the goodness that filled my life.

If you have someone in your life that you don’t see as lovable or perhaps even likeable, ask God to help you see something good within. Have compassion knowing that Jesus would shower that person with mercy and forgiveness, no matter what the life circumstance or attitude.  Look for even the smallest positive things, and pray for an open mind and a forgiving soul.  For when you are showing kindness to another, you are showing your love for God.

“Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’”

~Matthew 25:40


Susan Tolles is an Expert in Midlife Reinventions who inspires and equips women around the world to flourish in midlife and beyond.  As a Certified Dream Coach®, website creator and published author, Susan helps women celebrate and enrich their true inner and outer beauty as they live life to the fullest.  Her website gives them the resources and tools to radiate outer beauty with style, health and balance. Her Midlife Reinventions Road Trip in a Red Convertible™ and Powerful Me™ programs teach women how to live more purposeful, soul-driven lives as they flourish from the inside out. Susan would love for you to contact her at

Read more encouraging stories from brave-hearted women here. Be sure to grab your free copy of inspirational quotes and writing prompts while you’re there. (Look over on the right hand side!)

2 thoughts on “Compassion for the Unlovable (Especially My Mother)

  1. Susan, your heart-wrenching post brought tears to my eyes. I’m so very sorry you had to go through life never emotionally connecting with your adopted mother, but so proud of you for discovering how important compassion is and providing this during your mother’s last days. Trust that God will use your painful experience to touch others lives in a powerful way.

    • Thank you, Dana. I have definitely gone through some forgiveness and letting-go in the past few months, and God is using this to teach ME some very valuable lessons. I am so blessed to be very close to my two daughters and that is making up for much of the loss. I am also searching for my birthmother, and with God’s help, my quest will be resolved in His perfect way and timing. Thanks for your sweet words!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *