Study Guide

The Book of Margery Kempe Compassion and Forgiveness

By Margery Kempe

Compassion and Forgiveness

Because the heroine of The Book of Margery Kempe practices affective piety—a kind of spirituality in which she focuses on Christ's humanity and his mother's joys and sorrows—her responses are often emotional and tender. When she envisions Christ's suffering for her sins, her emotions ignite, and she feels sorrow and humility. This allows her to extend sympathy to almost anyone, even to sinners like herself. Though others often treat her with contempt and annoyance, Kempe is more than willing to forgive them and beg forgiveness for herself because she sees the world through the lens of Christ's life and suffering. She believes that no matter what she endures, it will never be more than what Christ undertook on her behalf.

Questions About Compassion and Forgiveness

  1. Why does Kempe seek forgiveness from those who treat her badly?
  2. How does Kempe's type of spirituality help her feel compassion toward others?
  3. Why does Kempe have a hard time accepting that some souls will be damned? What is Jesus's response to this?
  4. In what ways is condemnation (of behaviors or spiritual errors) a compassionate response? Does Kempe ever condemn? For what purpose?

Chew on This

Kempe's participation in affective piety increases her sense of compassion for those around her, including the people who persecute her.

Kempe's initial conversion experience is complicated by her inability to "sympathize" with Christ as fully as she does later in her life.