Compassion: What the heck is it?

Lilikoi Blossom

In my circles compassion is defined as your ability to be in the presence of the suffering of others. To become more compassionate we deepen our understanding — our ability to stand-under the situation at hand.

Nurses, regardless of label or culture are thought of as compassionate. This is because while we are hurt, broken or dying they remain by our side focused and together enough to provide the care. They can stand-under our pain and suffering.

There are many confused ideas about compassion. A quick google of ‘meaning of compassion’ returns:

sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others

Unpacking this, sympathetic yields:

feeling, showing, or expressing feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune
Your alarm bells are going off now, because oh-my-god we are entering feeling feelings territory and they could possibly show!

Now we have a two-fer on pity:

the feeling of deep distress caused by loss [sorrow])” and “cause for regret or disappointment

Distress, regret and disappointment are never high on the feelings I hope for today list. Moving on to the verb, concern: “worry, make anxious” yields nothing one hopes for daily either.

So in a nut shell; Compassion is the feeling of distress and anxiety that arises when you witness others misfortune.

How long can you stand-under your arising compassion?

We have many strategies to deal with compassion:

Ignore-ance being the first and foremost; after all, we literally cannot save the world daily or even in this lifetime. Crossing the street or not making that visit to the hospital are more common examples.

For things we cannot ignore in our daily travels we often pay it off; change in a cup.

For those events we have to face, we turn it into a cause for a time. Some even declare the cause their ‘life purpose’ and establish movements and the obligatory non(wink)profits.

Rare are those who can be present to a situation, take an action (or non-action) not based on their own needs and then let it go afterwards.

Compassion is a journey and the best starting point is compassion for yourself.
Do not ignore yourself; someday I am going to …
Do not pay yourself off; ice cream will bury almost any feeling.
Do not get lost in a cause and find you have only ignored yourself in a more creative way.

May this deepen your understanding and your relationship to the world.


(wink) — it is a common thought in our culture that our ‘life-purpose’ needs to pay our way. This is never the proposition.