What is Compassion?
What is compassion? What does it look like to you? Would you know it if you saw it? Is compassion another word for generosity? Possibly – I’m doubtful that compassion would be possible without generosity. But I can imagine generosity without compassion. Is it the same as kindness? Maybe – but acts of kindness don’t always require compassion.
Is compassion an act of obedience, a kind of duty born deep inside us? I’ve heard people describe compassion as something they just “had to do” because their faith demanded it of them, or because their conscience spoke to them. But certainly, not every obedience involves compassion.
If there is something, or someone, for which I am willing to suffer, that’s called my “passion”. “Compassion” is when I am willing to suffer with another. It is that inner desire to enter into and hold someone else’s suffering as my own. That usually means compassion is tangible and real in a way that costs me something – something like my peace, or my comfort, or my time, or my money, or even myself.
Compassion could start with the heart. But my experience suggests it starts with the eyes; especially when I see myself in someone’s sadness, or in someone’s experience of injustice, or in someone’s pain. Being a witness to compassion often brings tears to my eyes.
What does compassion look like to you?
What could it possibly mean that God is compassionate to all of creation? (Psalm 145)