What is Compassion?

People use the word Compassion to mean many things. Much of the time what they are really referring to is not compassion at all but sympathy or empathy. I'm now going to tell you a story in three chapters which will illustrate the true meaning of the word compassion. I will warn you ahead of time, though, that the story might not end just the way you think it should. 

Chapter 1

Once upon a time a young man named Joe was running down the street. He turned the corner and immediately in front of him there was a hole 10 feet deep. He fell into the hole. He had no way to climb out of the hole so he just sat down and wondered what to do.

Shortly another man named Jim walked by and saw Joe down in the hole. Jim jumped into the hole with Joe, sat down and commiserated with him and they both just sat there feeling unhappy at the bottom of the ten foot deep hole.

This is an example of Sympathy.

Chapter 2

Once upon a time a young man named Joe was running down the street. He turned the corner and immediately in front of him there was a hole 10 feet deep. He fell into the hole. He had no way to climb out of the hole so he just sat down and wondered what to do.

Shortly another man named Jim walked by and saw Joe down in the hole. Jim sat down on the edge of the hole and commiserated with Joe from up there. He told Joe how sorry he was about the predicament. He told Joe that he (Jim) knew how Joe must feel. Jim shed tears for and with Joe while Joe continued to sit at the bottom of the ten foot deep hole.

That is an example of Empathy.

Chapter 3

Once upon a time a young man named Joe was running down the street. He turned the corner and immediately in front of him there was a hole 10 feet deep. He fell into the hole. He had no way to climb out of the hole so he just sat down and wondered what to do.

Shortly another man named Jim walked by and saw Joe down in the hole. Jim could feel Joe's distress and knew that Joe did not want to be in the hole but could not figure out a way to get out of the hole. Jim estimated that the depth of the hole was 10 feet. He turned around and walked away. In a few moments Jim returned with a 12 foot ladder which he handed down to Joe. Then, again, Jim turned and walked away.

That is an example of Compassion.




I've told this story time and again. Most of my audiences just sit and look at me without any kind of response at all. Some people say things like "Oh no, there's more to compassion than that - much more."

Then they will begin to describe qualities which belong more to sympathy and empathy as being qualities of compassion. They get caught up in the emotional response to whatever difficulty they are facing at the moment - whether it belongs to themselves or to someone else.

Sympathy and empathy are emotions which originate in the body's third chakra. There is nothing wrong with them. Feelings of sympathy and empathy are very valuable for someone who is in great distress and just needs a shoulder to cry on or a hand to hold. Providing those resources when they are needed can and frequently does make someone else feel better.

Compassion, however, is another matter. Compassion does not originate from within the third chakra. It originates from within the fourth chakra - the heart chakra. Included within compassion there is always an element of action. There is always that which moves the recipient of the compassion to a new place where they can view the situation differently. Action on the part of the giver of compassion promotes the possibility of action on the part of the receiver of compassion. Action is the key. 

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