Disruptive Compassion | Book Review


“If I want to do something with my life and make a difference in the world, how do I do that?”

A college student asked Hal Donaldson this question several years ago after Donaldson made a presentation at his university. In the succeeding years, others asked Donaldson the same question. Though they were older than the student — some middle aged, others past retirement — each desired more than to do well; they wanted to do good.

Disruptive Compassion is Donaldson’s answer to their question. It reflects lessons he has learned personally, having grown up poor, and professionally, as CEO of Convoy of Hope. Convoy is a leading Christian compassion ministry whose mission is to “empower others to live with greater independence and freedom from poverty, disease, and hunger.”

But what precisely is “disruptive compassion”? As Donaldson explains, it’s not “code for sanitizing the world or condemning people who don’t measure up to your standards.” That is not the way of Jesus. Rather, disruptive compassion is “a rejection of the status quo and a belief that a tidal wave of love and acts of kindness can heal a wounded world.”

That sounds easy enough, right? Yes, and in a sense it is. The book’s thirteen chapters each contain an imperative for “compassion revolutionaries” to follow:

      1. Believe
      2. Define the Mission
      3. Do Reconnaissance
      4. Conduct an Audit
      5. Be Authentic
      6. Build a Team
      7. Pay the Invoice
      8. Create Momentum
      9. Eliminate Distractions
      10. Take Risks
      11. Measure Outcomes
      12. Persist and Pivot
      13. Go

These imperatives, while easy to articulate, are difficult to apply, however. Even to get started, you have to overcome what Donaldson calls “the true enemies of progress”: “doubt, apathy, and blame.” In my experience, this is the hardest threshold to cross because it calls us out of our comfort zone and challenges us to make a difference in our circle of influence.

While the imperative to believe presents a psychological challenge, the remaining imperatives present practical challenges. Where will I focus? What are the resource gaps that I can fill? How has God prepared me uniquely to address these gaps? Who will team up with me? And what costs am I willing to pay to see the mission through? These are some of the hard questions Donaldson asks (and answers) in his book.

Compassion revolutionaries come in all kinds. Some, like Donaldson himself, are full-time visionaries who create organizations, like Convoy of Hope, that become movements of love and kindness. Others excel in their professional careers but leverage their influence and wealth for Kingdom purposes. And still others serve in the army of volunteers that every genuine movement needs. You can read the stories of all kinds of compassion revolutionaries in the book.

The key thing, however, is to seek personally to “make a radical difference through disruptive compassion, wherever you are.” And so, having read the book, I find myself asking a simple question: Today, where can I show love and kindness to a person who needs it, whether through my words or by my deeds? Read this book, and I think you’ll start asking yourself the same thing. Answer it in word and deed and who knows how far your circle of influence eventually may extend!

Book Reviewed
Hal Donaldson, Kirk Noonan, and Lindsay Kay Donaldson, Disruptive Compassion: Becoming the Revolutionary You Were Born to Be (Grand Rapids, MI: 2019).

P.S. To hear my conversation with Hal Donaldson about Disruptive Compassion, please listen to Episode 184 of the Influence Podcast.

P.P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

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