Monday, April 16, 2018

Compassion is not pity

Back to the subject of compassion again. Many people seem to confuse the word "compassion" with "pity." And most people absolutely do not want to be the objects of pity for others.

However, compassion does not mean feeling sorry for others. It actually derives from the Latin patiri and the Greek pathein, meaning "to suffer, undergo or experience." So compassion really means enduring something with another person or putting ourselves in somebody else's shoes. We're feeling the pain of others as though it were ours. We then can enter into that person's point of view. See the difference between that and pity?

Taken further, this means that we know what causes pain to our selves and we really don't want to cause that kind of pain to anyone else. We will do what we can to avoid causing that.

While compassion isn't pity, it is concern for the pain and misfortune of others. It is sensitivity to the feelings of others. That then might motivate us to relieve the suffering of others, insofar as that's possible—or at the least to walk beside the other on the journey of pain and suffering. As we know, friends can double our joy and divide our pain. So that accompaniment piece is not insignificant. Think what a difference compassion (and self-compassion) can make in our world today!

What other thoughts do you have about compassion? I recommend exploring the work of Kristin Neff, who does a lot on the power of self-compassion.

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