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Do you feel guilty? Don’t.

You might be getting a little tired of reading these Compassion posts. It might be too much. Maybe a bit too heavy a read while you’re taking a break during the kids’ nap times.

I hear you. I’ve been like that during other Compassion blog trips — I want to read, but I also kinda don’t. The pictures, the stories, the descriptions… They’re just so heavy and sad, it’s hard not to feel a mix of sadness, anger, apathy, and even a little annoyance at the blogger doing the writing. It’s like they’re interrupting their regularly scheduled programming, and I want to read happier stuff.

To be honest, I’d read their posts and shut down the laptop feeling guilty. And I don’t want to feel guilty, especially when my own life isn’t always a walk in the park. So I stop reading, and pick back up after they return.

The thing I’ve realized this week, though, is that there’s a difference between guilt and conviction. The guilt is what causes that lump in your throat, where you can’t decide whether to swallow down your apathy or puke it all up in anger.

But conviction is that stirring deep inside you, when you acknowledge that guilt-like feeling, and instead of letting it fester, you mold and shape it into something productive.

Conviction causes action. Conviction leads to hope.

Yesterday, Emily and I did a gut-check on the bus leaving a particularly hard water-logged visit. Our eyes kept flooding on us, and it really was getting in the way of our sanity. See, after doing what we’re doing here, day after day, it’s easy to feel so overwhelmed that you check out. Your brain flatlines.

That’s why it’s important to make sure what’s stirring inside is conviction, not guilt.

A reader asked in the comments yesterday:

“You are there, with these beautiful children, in conditions I can’t even imagine. How will you be able to leave and not just want to take each of them with you?”

A valid question. Perhaps one you’ve wondered yourself. But I’ll tell you why I keep going all day, and then come back at night to tell you about them: It’s because I’ve not seen one ounce of self-pity. Not. one. bit.

This is Maann (say Mah-Ahn). I met her today. She’s 19, and she’s had a sponsor since she was 6. At 18, she was accepted into Compassion’s Leadership Development Program, and now she wants to run a local Compassion project for more children. She wants to give back. And she has the most joy-filled, peaceful spirit I’ve ever seen.

She lives here — in fact, here’s a video of us visiting her house:

And one of Maann’s dreams is to sponsor a child.

She’s sponsored. But she plans to sponsor a child herself.

Yesterday, Stephanie wrote about Marie, a woman here with two kids who are sponsored, and yet still serves as a Compassion volunteer by teaching 9 and 10-year-olds. Her house is flooded to her knees nine months of the year.

Several of the Compassion office staff here also chip in together to sponsor a child.

These three Filipinos want to serve Filipinos. That’s their answer to the wretched poverty they can’t ignore: they do something.

Doing something is hopeful. Not doing something just makes you feel guilty.

Today, Maann said this:

“I live in a place that is a squatter’s area, and it not good for a child to live. … Through Compassion, my view of life changed. Poverty is not a hindrance for me to not study. Nor an excuse for me to stay poor. But rather a stepping stone for me to stand and be firm. I learned why God gave me my life — to serve as a child of blessings to God and his people. … I pray that one day I can do as my sponsor did for me.”

I’ve been around non-profits and ministries my entire adult life. I’ve lived and worked overseas with many of them, often in pretty hard-core conditions. I like to give to things that really matter to me, usually involving cross-cultural work. We’re raising money ourselves, in fact, for our own current ministry work.

But I’ve been changed.
This week, it has changed me. My pocketbook will work differently from now on. Sponsoring a Compassion child is beyond worth it. The dollars multiply into loaves and fishes, and then some.

So that’s why we can leave the Philippines in two days and leave the precious children here — because we’ve seen hope in action. We’re gut-checking our insides, and making sure they’re digesting conviction and not guilt. These people, blessed by Compassion, have hope. Hope. More hope than I’ve seen in a long while.

I don’t know about you, but I want to give hope.

Reading Time:

3 minutes





  1. Marcia Francois, Organising Queen

    Beautiful post, Tsh. I sponsor a World Vision child but your post is convicting me to sponsor a Compassion child too 🙂

  2. Anthony from CharismaticKid

    It’s interesting. It seems like the ones with the least to give in life want to do the most for others.

    Think about that as a parent. Are we raising narcissists that are spoiled rotten and only want more for themselves? Or are we raising caring, altruistic human beings?

  3. Janine

    Guilt? Yes, I definitely felt that yesterday when I read the other blogs. Thanks for this post, I would love to give hope. To you, Tsh and the rest of the Compassion bloggers, Thank You! I was born and raised in the Philippines and now I call Canada home but my heart is right there. I’ll be praying for wisdom on how I can help through Compassion. I know it’s a commitment and it’s more than just donating money. God bless Compassion!

  4. Christine

    This post is just perfect for all of the first world–and for all Christians. The right words, the right heart, the right perspective.

    And those joyful faces help remind us of our own poverty–our discontent and complaining, though we live in such luxury.

  5. Lisa-Jo @thegypsymama

    Oh Tsh, this is so wonderful. Thank you for helping us look you in the eyes as we read along – thank you for showing us how to feel more than just guilty. This is so so good.

  6. Flower Patch Farmgirl

    I read Emily’s blog last night and it really threw me for a loop. I couldn’t get it out of my head. I was confused by the “don’t feel guilt” thing, and I talked it to death in the dark with my husband. I finally left it with, “Maybe it’s just semantics? Maybe I’m thinking of a different definition of guilt?” And now I read this and I think YES. When I saw “guilt”, I was thinking “conviction”. It makes sense now. Because all I really know is, every family I know needs a Compassion kid. Or four. There’s no good reason under the sun not to act in such a small way. It’s too important.

    Praying for allaya’ll.

    ps – You probably won’t remember this, but I briefly met you at Blissdom. We were seated together at the meal where they served the strange “peanut butter bread pudding.”

  7. Michelle ~ Blogging from the Boonies

    Conviction can lead to wonderful things.
    Amazing how these people have hope and can teach us so much. As I shared on the Compassion blog last week, a little girl names Precious who lives in Ghana in a one room home made of clay, she wrote to me to tell me that sweeping brings her joy. On a day where I griped about sweeping crumbs off of of our floor. Not thinking that I was blessed to have crumbs to spare, or blessed to have sturdy wooden floors, even if they are painted plywood. One sentence has forever changed how I view sweeping. Now, I also sweep with joy because I think of our Precious girl in Ghana.
    If any of your readers have sponsored a child because of these blogger posts, I’d like to let you know I have a gift for you. Stop by my blog to a recent post called New Compassion Sponsors.

  8. Jenny

    I’m SOOOO glad you guys do these trips. I wish there were 52 every year – one for each week in a different country. You have my sweet friend with you – Emily – and her words pierce me every time I read them (in a wonderfully freeing way).

    Two of my compassion children are in the Philippines, so it is a GIFT that y’all are writing from your hearts about these kids… their lives…their hopes… their dreams… you are giving me a very personal window into their lives that I would have not had any other way.

    Keep taking these trips. Keep writing about these families and children. Keep taking pictures. I can’t ever get enough of hearing about what Compassion is doing, ever. I’m a 10 year sponsor and Lord willing, will be here the next 60 to keep sponsoring these amazing kids!

  9. michelle

    I’ve followed the Compassion bloggers through Kenya, Guatemala, and now the Philippines. Yep, it’s hard, but I’m grateful to be rocked out of my comfort zone. I’m inspired by the stories I’ve read of the heroes over there. I’m stirred to find out what more I can do with what I have, because I can’t just read and do nothing. I need conviction like this. Thanks.

  10. Kara @Simple Kids

    I’ve got a million thoughts, a lump in my throat, and yet no words as my fingers hover over the keyboard.

    So, I’ll just say this: I love you. I love what you are doing this week. And I thank you for gently pushing me to examine my own guilt vs. conviction.

  11. Sarah

    What a wonderful way to write…I too have shut off TV shows, shut the laptop, changed the radio station out of guilt and apathy. Sometimes it’s hard to allow conviction to take hold of your life and do something – any small thing – that God leads you to do. I know sometimes I feel overwhelmed at the magnitude, and I want to do thing to help all over the place. It leaves me spread thin and burnt out. But I rejoice in the mission and the ministry God has for me where I am and I keep open and keep praying that He will lead me step by step into the ministries where I can spread His hope and love. Thanks

  12. Teresa

    So beautifully said. Thank you!

  13. Heather

    Thank you for processing through everything so perfectly. Conviction leading to hope in action… much better than guilt leading to complacency. Your posts not only provide conviction they provide perspective. Last night my sick toddler insisted I hold him while I cook dinner. My initial reaction was frustration…then perspective appeared. A reminder from your visit yesterday. At least I wasn’t cooking dinner with water up to my knees. Thank u for perspective that led to gratitude.

  14. Sarah Park

    Thank you, Tsh, to you and the other bloggers there right now… thank you for this intense work of seeing, processing, and writing, for us to read and understand. It has been such an eye-opener for me.

  15. Hannah

    That’s an excellent distinction. Guilt isn’t very productive, because the feeling fades with our short attention spans. Conviction is from Him and can change the choices we make day in and day out. Thanks for sharing, Tsh! I’m praying for you daily.

  16. Rebecca

    LOVE it. YES, conviction vs. guilt. Powerful stuff indeed.

    So glad that you have shared the dignity of the beautiful people there. I’ve been on several mission trips, and get so sad when people say (out of the best of intentions), “I wish I could bring them all home.” My heart hurts to hear that. Afterall, why is here better than there? Yes, I want everyone to have provisions necessary for life, but “there” is often a beautiful place…rich in culture, dignity, hope and a beautiful way of living.

    God is so good. He is at work through this trip. My heart is evidence.

  17. Heart and Haven

    “Conviction”…Tsh, you either read my post, read my mind, or God is working in miraculous ways around the world!

    As I look past the living conditions of the photos you and the other Compassion bloggers are posting, yes I can see the bright smiles and hope you talk about. In some ways, those children have greater riches than many children here in the US.

    I realize that all kids need is the basics in life…and the hope of Jesus 🙂

  18. Christin

    That’s it, Tsh. That’s what I’ve read when I’ve read yours, Emily’s and Kat’s posts {so far}….I see hope shine through each one. And right…as I look at the people interact, I do not see self-pity, but gratitude for the love of others.

    You know, when I watch you all (through pictures & video) go into the houses of these precious families, I see how they invite you in with smiles – in tiny, one room homes. And yet, here, many of us complain we don’t want to have people over because our house is too small. As if we’re ashamed of what we’ve been given and we shouldn’t be! Those families are happy to share their space, no matter how tiny it is. Such a perspective shift.

  19. Amy

    Hope. Beautiful hope. And like my friend said “Hope is only $38 a month”. I coupon and I can tell you $38 is a BARGAIN like no other! It’s so amazing to see kids and families in such dire situations with so. much. HOPE!

  20. Heart and Haven

    My family just sponsored our first child with Compassion International! She is a beautiful 4 yr old girl from El Salvador.

    I pray that all the children will receive sponsors!

    • Tsh

      So great! Thanks for letting me know. And thanks for signing up! Her life — and yours — will never be the same.

  21. alexaminer68

    Beautiful post.Thanks for your sharing.
    Poor them,they must live in miserable condition but I love their smile.It’s very nice.I hope many sponsor will help them in the future

  22. Roberta

    I can just imagine how brain dead you must be feeling and so much in such a short period of time can be overwhelming. Just know that I am overwhelmed as well BUT with inspiration from seeing all these beautiful people. Seeing their smiles and their tenacity for life no matter what their conditions…it simply wonderful. Rest assured as much as possible that your messages are coming through with every smile we see 😉

  23. Haley

    Poor them when living in a miserable condition like this.I love their smiles. Pray many sponsor will help them soon

  24. alexaminer68

    It’s a meaningful post.Thanks for your sharing.Their children is living in poor condition and I hope that many sponsors help them soon.

  25. Jennifer

    The stories you are sharing have touched my heart and inspired me. I sponsored a child yesterday.

  26. oh amanda {impress your kids}

    Thank you, Tsh. What a great distinction b/w guilt and conviction. And thank you for helping us understand that Compassion isn’t simply in the pulling someone out of their poor house business but in giving HOPE through Jesus Christ.

    So excited about reading every word you guys put out for us. Praying for you all!

  27. Paola Pacheco Rarick

    WOOOOWEEEE!!!! What a touching post. I have tears in my eyes. About a month ago I started praying about sponsoring a child and which organization to do it with. Compassion is what we are choosing and now we are waiting for some financial answers. I am very excited to see what is going on. Thank you for your honesty! May God Bless your comings and goings. I will keep you all in my prayers.

    • Tsh

      I’m so glad! Any financial questions related to Compassion I can help with? Or do you mean more on your personal family side?

  28. Nester

    Tsh, this is an absolutely beautiful post. Thank you for going and being eyes and ears and words.

  29. Courtney

    As always, you know just exactly what to say. It is like you are reading my thoughts! Thanks for your honesty about the whole “guilt” thing and your incredibly wonderful point about conviction. Wow.

  30. DebbieRN

    Just to let you know your simple words have moved my heart. We sponsored multiple children in Haiti for 30 years. Then the earthquake. Now we are supporting a school in El Salvador. Your writing and pictures make me realize we are incredibly wealthy. We do not live in excess which our popular culture worships. I will talk to my sweetheart of 34 years about Compassion. And I will let you know. I am old enough to be your mother and I am proud of you and your family. You provide incredible value using your gifts for Jesus glory!

  31. Jami

    What a GREAT post, Tsh!!! I love living vicariously through your journey here. Our very first Compassion child (from when we were first married 19 years ago) is in the Philippines. She found our family website several years ago and is my precious friend on Facebook (the one, greatest thing about FB so far for me). She is engaged to a pastor and is working in ministry to help poor children. God is THAT good! =) I’m so thrilled to see they have a leadership program, I don’t think that was around when Bernadette was a teen. I’ve dreamed of going to the Philippines to meet her…it’s blessed me to see you there. What a wonderful gift God has given you! Thanks for your posts!!!

  32. alex

    Tsh–I have been reading these posts all week and mulling it around in my head and heart. My family sponsored a child through a Catholic charity when I was a kid, even though we were on foodstamps, etc. I remember how generous our Guatemalan family was to us, as they would send us beautiful woven gifts and letters. Growing up, my mother’s unlimited capacity to give to others beyond our visible means was a powerful influence on my three brothers and myself–and, not surprisingly, we never really suffered and our needs were always met in one way or another by our parents’ resourcefulness and the generosity of our own community.
    As a new small business owner and mother of two, our own family financial situation is pretty shaky on most days by the standards of our neighbors and peers. However, reading these posts all week brought back memories of my mother’s faith that she could always spend some time or money to help another person, because God provides for us (like the birds of the air!).
    I mean, honestly, I am sitting at a computer, with an XBOX nearby, and a purchased cup of coffee from the farmers market–none of these things are really necessary or important (well, maybe the coffee..haha!), but somehow we manage to squeeze that money out of our budget!
    The bottom line is that it all works out in the end, and I am so thrilled to sponsor a child (just did–a beautiful little 6 year old from the Phillippines!) and to use our limited money for something that will go a lot further than a caffeine jolt.

  33. Janey Backer

    Very well said – should be posted all over the world!

    I was convicted to action by the posts yesterday by Lindsey to start writing to our kids with World Vision. I have felt so awkward that I just didn’t do it, don’t want to offend the religious differences and don’t want to flaunt. So I went and printed out all the information for contacting our two kids and ideas for what to write about and what to avoid. I am equipped to take action, as Kat would say!

  34. ~M

    Thank you for this great post, Tsh.

  35. Misty G

    This post is beautiful and beautifully put together as well.
    This post did not impose guilt, but motivated me to action, through conviction…. We have sponsored a little girl in Uganda for a few years now, but aren’t the best about writing to her.
    After watching the video of Maann reading her letters from her previous sponsor, seeing her light up while reading letters that she has had since she was so young – still treasuring them – and the disappointment of not getting to hear much from her current sponsor…. I WANT to write more to my little girl in Uganda…we think of her & pray for her often, but seeing first hand how much Maann treasures these sponsor letters has changed the way/amount that we will communicate with our little girl from now on. I’m really looking forward to it.
    Thank you so much for sharing in your experiences and spurring others on to love & give hope. It’s inspiring. Mission accomplished! 😉

  36. Emily

    This is such a beautiful post! I tend to get tired of feeling guilty, and then I just ignore the issues, when really I should be channeling that into conviction, and doing something about it. This was so well said!

  37. Nikki

    I love this! Thank you for clarifying the distinction between guilt and conviction. And for sharing this story of Maann. I so love to see how the ripple effect works. When in the midst of the poverty it’s difficult to understand how what we’re doing can make any difference at all. But over the course of time, we begin to see.

    I painted walls in Ethiopia at an orphanage and struggled so greatly with ‘WHAT in the world am I doing here? What does painting walls have anything to do with ANYTHING?’ But…little did I know that those painted walls that I posted on my blog brought hope and something to cling to for a mama in Ireland who was awaiting her adopted child (after 5 years of waiting)…who just happened to have lived in the very room I painted. We’ve no idea the impact we have just by following our convictions.

    I sponsored a child in December and am axiously awaiting my first letter from her and building a relationship with her. One day I’ll take my daugther to Rwanda to meet her… Sponsorship informercials used to bring me guilt…today, they bring me JOY! Because I stepped out of the guilt and into the life of a little girl. :o)

  38. Catherine McChessney

    Wow! Thank-you for such a great post! I do have guilt on occasion, but truly need to turn that into conviction 🙂

  39. Amy Sullivan

    You know there have been times when I have felt guilty after reading stories from the Compassion Bloggers, but mostly, I just feel motivated to do something, get up, and get involved. For me, that means dedicated about writing and praying for our sponsored kids.

    Thanks, Tsh.

  40. Dave Higgs-Vis @ Folkabout Baby

    Poor in riches but beyond wealthy in hope and faith. The people of the so-called “developing world” sure have a lot going for them.

  41. Sara

    Thank you for this post. My husband and I have been in Japan for nearly a year doing vocational mission work. We came on a one year contract, planning to decide after that time whether we’d like to pursue it full-time or return to the States.

    We have to make a decision within the next week. We have a job offer on the table in the States that is exactly what we had always looked for before we came to Japan. After a year here, though, our perspective has been irreversibly altered. The decision we have before us is one I never thought I’d be facing. Guilt vs. conviction… man, you hit the nail on the head with that one.

  42. Shivam Garg

    Hi Tsh,
    I see the sponsors and adoptions as an investment of money which would surely come back to a person in a good way.We should never feel guilt but should take action because that is what drives the world.

  43. Arlington Mama

    Thank you for your honesty! Wow, I’ve tried to ignore guilt inducing posts myself, but gee whiz, I feel a ton of conviction from these posts of yours. Thank you! My hubby and I are about to do the “Your Money or Your Life” workbook, and I’m thrilled that it will give us the opportunity to reassess our values and financial goals. These posts have seriously changed me. I want to “live more simply so that others may simply live”. Wow. Thank you! I’m so glad to hear from a trusted source, you, that Compassion is such a good organization and stewards money well. I had heard that, but thanks for confirming it. It makes me want to give to them even more.

  44. Megan at SortaCrunchy

    Hope. Hope in action. I truly believe that is the key to battling compassion fatigue (and I don’t mean capital C Compassion – just compassion in general) – providing pictures and testimony and answers in the form of HOPE. It’s so motivating, so galvanizing. Thank you for all you have shared from your trip and for spurring us all onward with hope.

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