Compassion and Empathy

Compassion – The emotion that we feel in response to the suffering of others – Wikipedia

Empathy – The capacity to recognise emotions that are being experienced by another sentient being – Wikipedia

As a child I was brought up to be compassionate. To love my neighbour, to turn the other cheek, to be an all round nice guy … and a pushover. After many years of contemplation I made the following observations;

Compassion is a rather selfish endeavour who’s main purpose is to help people less fortunate and butter up our personal egos. Compassion presumes the existence of a victim and a saviour, and as such it forces us to make a judgement from our own life experience as to where we fit into the compassion duality – either a victim or a saviour. Only after this observation and judgement, can we embark upon a course of action that twill result in the act of compassion. This was one of those fabled gestalt moments for me!

I realised that there was nothing at all wrong with what and how I was feeling. The problem was that I was trying to force myself to feel and act within the framework of compassion. This in its self was a good thing, but there were many time where it was inappropriate and I was feeling guilty about it!

I then discovered empathy. Empathy recognises the other as they are in the moment. One does not need a reference point form within ones own life to function in and apply empathy. Empathy involves the respect for the other as they are, no judgement, no presumption and no obligation to save. This represents the ultimate respect that any person can have for another. Respect them in the moment. Once we have observed this respect, we can then decide how we can impact on the other in a way that is appropriate for both them and us.

Go out this week and play with these concepts and observe how you feel!

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