Monday, July 26, 2010


A friend of mine recently posted the following quote on Facebook: 

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.  If you want to be happy, practice compassion.  ~Dalai Lama

The word “compassion” has been weighing heavily on my mind lately.  What is it, and how do we practice it?  Wikipedia defines “compassion” in the following terms:  Compassion (from Latin: "co-suffering") is a virtue —one in which the emotional capacities of empathy and sympathy (for the suffering of others) are regarded as a part of love itself, and a cornerstone of greater social interconnectedness and humanism —foundational to the highest principles in philosophy, society, and personhood.

What touched me the most in that definition is to realize that our ability to practice true compassion is dependent upon our ability to love.  You cannot operate one without the other.  I have been thinking of compassion in terms of care and concern, of putting myself in another’s shoes, of trying to understand the pain and sorrow of others; but none of those things are possible without love.  Love is the foundation upon which true compassion is built.  And it is love that affords us the opportunity to help others in their times of need, no matter what the cost to ourselves.  Love and compassion are the opposite of selfishness and greed.  They allow us to give without regard for what we may receive in turn, but only with a desire to help make the burden of others a little easier to bear. 

Christianity as a whole talks an awful lot about love.  They talk about how God loves us, the love He gave in the sacrifice of His son, and our responsibility to love one another.  Yet, although it is easy to find a Christian who claims to understand love, it is often difficult to find those Christians who know how to practice it.  It is not until someone finds themselves in a place to truly need love and compassion given to them that they will learn who is able to practice it truly, regardless of religious labels or professed belief systems. 

It is hard to put all of my varied thoughts on this topic into words, and to that end, I spent a little time today reading quotes about compassion.  I have copied below some of those that were the most meaningful to me.   

The best practical advice I can give to the present generation is to practice the virtue which the Christians call love.  ~Bertrand Russell

Never look down on anybody unless you're helping him up.  ~Jesse Jackson

The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people halfway.  ~Henry Boye

Life is mostly froth and bubble,
Two things stand like stone,
Kindness in another's trouble,
Courage in your own.
~Adam Lindsay Gordon

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong.  Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.  ~George Washington Carver

You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Love thy neighbor, and if it requires that you bend your understanding of the truth, the Truth will understand.  ~Robert Brault

Remember that everyone you meet is afraid of something, loves something and has lost something.  ~H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

I expect to pass through life but once.  If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.  ~William Penn

Never miss an opportunity to make others happy, even if you have to leave them alone in order to do it.  ~Author Unknown

If you step on people in this life, you're going to come back as a cockroach.  ~Willie Davis


Kim V. said...

You are right that compassion cannot exist without love, especially in Christianity. One notable thing that points to that is the use of the word charity, in the place of love in the King James Version of what is commonly called the love chapter in the bible - 1 Corinthians 13.