Compassion not Sympathy

Today we look at the idea of compassion.  Many of us view the concepts of compassion, sympathy, empathy, and agreement as being interchangeable.  I have found that they each have a different meaning.  Today we look at what it means to be truly compassionate.


Welcome back

I hope everyone had a great weekend.  Spring is gradually creeping into the northeastern US.  It gave us a wonderful weekend.  I have often wondered why we have to start our calendar year at some arbitrary point during the winter.  Why couldn’t we start the new year on the first day of spring?


What is compassion?

There is a common misconception in our society that when we care about someone that we have to feel sorry for them.  Or feel sympathy for them.  Or “feel their pain”.  Ouch – that one always bothers me.


It is like we think that if we want to help someone we have to feel bad as well.  All that we accomplish when we act in that manner is that we feel bad as well.  Compassion has nothing to do with our feeling bad.


Many of us have been trained to feel sympathy for other people.  When we feel sympathy we are getting down in the suffering of others and suffering with them.  Sympathy causes us to hurt ourselves – and in that, it keeps us from being able to fully help those around us because we are not staying in the moment.


Compassion (or empathy) allows us to stay in the moment.  We recognize the pain that people around us are experiencing.  Compassion is a type of objective recognition that people are in pain.  Compassion also requires us to maintain that same objectivity as we offer our help to others.


Compassion also recognizes that we offer our help – not because we think that someone “needs to be fixed” – but because we see them in pain and would like to help them lessen their pain.  Compassion is simply seeing someone in pain and making an offer to help.


We do not force the help on someone.  We do not tell them that they “have a problem”.  We just see someone in the same pain that we once experience and offer to help them because someone may have once helped us when we were in a similar situation.


Compassion makes no judgments.  It does not say that someone is “bad” because they have a problem.  Compassion accepts the other person, problems and all, and says “I care about you.”  Compassion means that we are in the moment and attempting to share what we have learned with others who are going through what we have gone through.


Let’s try this.  The next time you find yourself feeling sorry for someone who is in pain – watch your feelings.  Are you feeling the same hurt that they are?  If you are – then you are out of the moment and are feeling sympathy, not compassion.


Gradually train yourself to stay more objective.  You will find that you still are able to care for others – but you will be much more effective.  By staying compassionate rather than sympathetic you will be able to see much more clearly how to help those around you.


Until tomorrow –


Es kava turen hai

We work towards an identical goal.




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