Compassion defined

  • Literally, suffering with another; a sensation of sorrow excited by the distress or misfortunes of another; pity; commiseration;

    Syn: Pity; sympathy; commiseration; fellow-feeling; mercy; condolence. Source: Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.)

  • Deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it. Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

On compassion

What tugs at your heartstrings? Do you avoid topics of conversation or situations that make you feel you just don’t do enough good? Do you think the state of the world, the condition of the planet, the volume of suffering is just too far gone, too negative, too great for one to do anything about?

In this life, we cannot do great things, we can only do small things with great love.
— Mother Teresa

It’s one thing to feel compassion another living being, be it human or animal; it is, of course, entirely another to translate those concerns into action.

The human spirit is not dead. It lives on in secret…it has come to believe that compassion, in which all ethics must take root, can only attain its full breadth and depth if it embraces all living creatures and does not limit itself to mankind.
Albert Schweitzer, Nobel Peace Prize address, "The Problem of Peace in the World of Today"

The Bible clearly states that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. Developing unconditional love and compassion for all living beings is the heart of Buddhist practice. Actually, compassion seems to comprise major part of virtually every spiritual path with which we’re even remotely familiar.

There is so much in this world that most people never see anymore. It is sad knowing that they can go through life never realizing what treasures we have before us. I think this is the main reason people have become so numb to their feelings — why compassion is a stranger. If people could only see, they would understand.
— Kevin Pickard

Spiritual teacher Thich Nhat Hanh speaks of the "Four Immeasurable Minds" which are love, compassion, joy, and equanimity. Pema Chödrön calls them the "Four Limitless Ones." Of the four, mettā or loving-kindness meditation is perhaps the best known. The Four Immeasurables are taught as a form of meditation that cultivates "wholesome attitudes towards all sentient beings."

If your heart is straight with God, then every creature will appear to you as a mirror of life and a sacred scripture. No creature is so small and insignificant so as not to express and demonstrate the goodness of God.
Thomas à Kempis, Christian mystic

Resources: Compassion