Monday, March 5, 2012

Definition of Compassion

Here is my definition of compassion:

com·pas·sion (n.) - Genuine sympathy for and desire to help others who are suffering.

I'd like to add that compassion extends not just to those who are suffering in ways that we understand, but also to those who suffer in ways that we do not know. For example, someone can speak harshly towards me with unkind words and insults, which is a wrongful and hurtful action. It can be easy to retaliate with my own harsh words and judgment. But that is when I try to give "the benefit of the doubt." Perhaps that person is suffering in ways that I cannot see and cannot know; maybe her unkind words are a reaction to the pain or sorrow she is experiencing. It is not right for her to take her struggles out on me, but she is human and makes mistakes. When I think about it, I realize that I make similar mistakes, so rather than judge and insult her back, I should offer compassion and understanding. Sometimes a compassionate response is all a person needs to start being more patient and kind herself.

What does compassion mean to you? Share your ideas here.
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  1. Here are reader comments from my previous blog:

    What I know for sure today is that "suffering" is a matter of perception. I am finding as I re-frame the concept of "suffering," "suffering" can become transformative. Suffering draws me closer to source spirit. I experience that in my personal challenges at this time as well as in my role as a hospice volunteer. I recall that Oprah remarked that God often gives his best students the hardest lessons. What can I learn from this experience and how can I use this for the highest good? Meaning and purpose can emerge and be cultivated, deeping our connections with all of life. When I am compassionate, I find that I am in a state of allowing - allowing others to be who they are without judgment. We are all teachers and we can all be healers. When I am compassionate with myself, knowing that I am doing the best I can in my current state of awareness, I am able to extend that gift of compassion to others. I believe we are, by nature, compassionate. Compassion is source energy; I am truly connected to source energy/God, when I live with compassionate heart.
    posted 2012-02-10

    Compassion is a pretty strong word. I guess the more I think about compassion, the more I think it requires an action. I don't think you can be compassionate and passive. If you see someone suffering, regardless of what it is, you have to make a movement to alleviate that. It can be as simple as a smile, forgiveness, or changing they way you think....or it can be as big as building homes, working at food banks, etc. But I think if you see suffering and don't act, then you are merely being observant. Not compassionate.
    posted 2012-02-13

  2. I would add that if you see suffering and do not act, what you may feel is compassion is really a strong sense of empathy. Empathy, or the capacity to put yourself in another person's shoes, is an emotion of understanding. However, it does not imply action. I would have to agree with Kari that to be compassionate requires some form of action to alleviate the pain experienced by someone else. I guess I will need to update my definition!