We often hear “to have compassion”, and not just compassion, but true compassion. But what does that mean? What is true compassion? Can it really be defined?
Webster says: Compassion is a sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.
Put Yourself in Their Shoes
When someone is going through a difficult time in their life, or has experienced a great loss, we may find we have deep feelings to care for them or the situation. We may seek to have a better understanding and imagine if we were in their shoes.
For complex situations, we may find power in simplicity. No need to overthink. Simply take a moment to understand from another perspective. That may be an individual perspective, or even an entire culture. This simple exercise allows us to listen without judgement and with compassion.
When we listen with compassion we protect ourselves from absorbing toxic emotions, and it helps to alleviate the suffering of the other person. In this process we may sympathize or empathize through compassion. Both are terms that get confused for one another. So what does it all mean? We all experience these feelings at different levels, and at different times. When they are true, even deeper, is when the heart and mind are open selflessly. How can we understand true compassion?
Let’s break it down
Both sympathy and empathy are derived from the Greek word pathos.
What does Webster say?
Pathos: an element in experience or in artistic representation evoking pity or compassion; an emotion of sympathetic pity; etc.
Sympathy: an affinity, association, or relationship between persons or things wherein whatever affects one similarly affects the other; inclination to think or feel alike, emotional or intellectual accord; etc.
Empathy: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another, the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it; etc.
What does true compassion mean to you? Share your thoughts in the comment box below!