Compassion. Do You Have It?

What Is Compassion?

Surely, you're familiar with the term "compassion." Just in case, compassion is defined by Webster's Dictionary as:

"sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it."

Now that we're all up to speed, let's talk about compassion.

Who Deserves Yours?

Say you see a dog who has been abused, starved, neglected. Do you feel a pang of sadness? Are you overwhelmed with grief over the idea that a poor, helpless creature has been betrayed by those who were charged with its care?

How about a child? When "Save The Children" or one of those kind of organizations parades photos of hungry, naked children with huge sad eyes across the television screen do you well up with tears? Do you imagine what it must be like to fall asleep with knots tearing through your stomach? Do you feel for the parents, unable to provide for their child's most basic needs?

Now, how about a neighbor who has lost his job? Do you feel for his family, worried about losing their home? Is it upsetting to know that he lays awake at night feeling like a failure and wondering if things really are going to be all right?

What if the dog in question is a pit-bull, a rottweiler? Is it any more difficult to feel bad?

How about the starving children? Do your feelings on international issues cloud your ability to realize that you are seeing a baby suffer? Are you too busy blaming bad government, loose morals, or skin color to recognize an innocent spirit crying out for someone to care?

Now, for the neighbor. Say you don't like the way he only cuts his lawn once per month. Or that political sign he sticks in said lawn. Is he then less worthy of your compassion? Have you judged him for living beyond his means or for being in a bad industry, while looking past the fact that he is a fellow human with feelings every bit as valid as your own?

Photo by Geir Petursson
Photo by Geir Petursson

Why Compassion?

Tenzyn Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama of Compassion, has said that regardless of deeper existential beliefs, all humans share a desire for happiness.

Often, in our lives, we allow hatred and anger to poison our minds. This usually leads us astray on our path to happiness and fulfillment, making it much more difficult to wish others well on their journey.

Once anger and hatred have been allowed to infiltrate, our whole existence becomes difficult, unclear, muddled. We often feel frustrated and unsatisfied at our lack of happiness. This leads us down a slippery slope of blame and bitterness.

If we can pass the buck to something or someone else, we can avoid the reality that we are ultimately responsible for our own mental and spiritual state of being. Sadly, we can never achieve fulfillment this way. Quite the opposite, the more we stew over who or what has cheated us out of our happiness, the worse off we feel. Feeling less-than-stellar inside our own psyche just leads to more lashing out. It's a particularly nasty cycle that far too many of us spend our lives repeating.

Like begets like. You have probably heard the old Native American proverb where an elder tells his grandchildren that there are two wolves inside every person, constantly battling for dominance. One is filled with anger, selfishness, hatred, lies, false pride, and ego. The other is of compassion, kindness, humility, and love. The children ask which wolf will ultimately prevail and the answer (of course) is: "the one you feed."


Achieving It

Compassion, empathy, and concern is something that we can obtain and nurture.

First, we must clear out all of the junk that has accumulated in our minds. The noise. The things that don't matter. A big problem is that many of us have great difficulty just seeing anything. As soon as we look at something - be it a person, a situation, or an idea - we have already placed upon it a whole heap of clutter that completely alters our view of the thing as it really is. Rather than see the situation at hand - that a person is suffering - we often build up whole colonies of judgements against the sufferer and allow these judgements to discount the magnitude of their pain, or to negate its validity.

Next time you catch yourself doing this, stop and make a conscious effort to peel away all of the whys and hows and take the situation at face value. Here in this moment, someone suffers. If you cannot alleviate their pain, perhaps you can at least wish the best for them. This will not diminish your own potential for happiness. In fact, it will increase it exponentially.

Anoint the blistered feet before you rather than condemning the person they belong to for how they came to be that way.

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Comments 39 comments

lxxy profile image

lxxy 7 years ago from Beneath, Between, Beyond

"Have you judged him for living beyond his means or for being in a bad industry, while looking past the fact that he is a fellow human with feelings every bit as valid as your own?"

Yes, indeed. These are good questions to ask ones self.

"Tenzyn Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama of Compassion, has said that regardless of deeper existential beliefs, all humans share a desire for happiness.

Often, in our lives, we allow hatred and anger to poison our minds. This usually leads us astray on our path to happiness and fulfillment, making it much more difficult to wish others well on their journey."

Your species needs to quit fighting for the immaterial, it can have all it wants when it finds a common ground---a common belief that all deserve to be happy, in a way that harms no one.

"Next time you catch yourself doing this, stop and make a conscious effort to peel away all of the whys and hows and take the situation at face value. Here in this moment, someone suffers. If you cannot alleviate their pain, perhaps you can at least wish the best for them. This will not diminish your own potential for happiness. In fact, it will increase it exponentially."

I could not have said it better.

Welcome to lightspeed. =)


erin boote profile image

erin boote 7 years ago from Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania

This is very insightful and thought provoking. Certainly, it brings a new perspective into one's levels of compassion and motivates the reader to ask those important questions of ourselves when confronted with these situations.. Great Job..)love the quotations too!


alekhouse 7 years ago

I am a very compassionate and empathic person. I would never escalate into negative thought about someone on government assistence who had had a miscarriage. My inclination would be to help her in some way. My problem is that I'm too empathic. It can be very painful.


RooBee profile image

RooBee 7 years ago from Here Author

lxxy, you have caused me a huge smile to attach itself to me and I can't get it off. Thanks!

erin, glad to see you! I think we all have to stop once in a while and make sure we aren't getting too bitter. Thank you kindly for the compliments!

alekhouse, I'm glad to hear it. I used that story just as one example. I, too, would be inclined to want to help in that case. I realized, though, that I have had a tendency to justify passing judgment on certain people. Say a high-earning CEO loses his job. I would usually make a snide remark about how he might have to live like the rest of us or something. Really, though, do I want that guy to feel bad or to lose his position? No. I always feel yucky after I condemn someone, even if it was a "joke".

Glad you are so empathetic and I'm sorry that it causes you pain - I can definitely relate to that in a lot of ways. I have been viewed as foolish in my pursuit of finding redemption in and compassion for others.

Don't change and thanks so much for commenting!


Frieda Babbley profile image

Frieda Babbley 7 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

I am a major fan of The 14th Dalai Lama! We're friends on myspace (I know silly and weird, but it was one of my ways of showing support). excellent piece you've written here, RooBee. Very well thought out and beautifully written. Thanks for the reminder to all of us.


RooBee profile image

RooBee 7 years ago from Here Author

Frieda, that is funny (the myspace thing). I love the internet! :)Thanks so kindly for the comments. Means alot! :D


Mrvoodoo profile image

Mrvoodoo 7 years ago from ?

'Om Mani Padme Hum' I have this tattooed on my wrist and say it to myself every morning, every night, and at any time in between that I catch myself judging someone, or consider smacking anyone.  Great hub, we could all change a little for the better, small steps.


Whikat 7 years ago

RooBee, I swear you can read my mind sometimes. I was just thinking about these things but on different subjects. I just got done teaching my girls about the unconscious mind, how it does not know the difference if you judge someone else your unconsious mind believes that you are judging yourself. This is a great hub. I really loved it. :-)


Teresa McGurk profile image

Teresa McGurk 7 years ago from The Other Bangor

I have found the most happiness in my life in service to those to whom I might not have spoken when I was younger and more callow. While we should not let our right hand know what our left hand is doing in such matters, I can say that I have been privileged when allowed to show compassion rather than disdain. It has taken me many years, and I'm not there yet; but it is a happy destiny.


RooBee profile image

RooBee 7 years ago from Here Author

Mrvoodoo - first, I've been meaning to tell you that I really dig your avatar! V!! I admire your efforts to remember compassion in your daily life. Many could take an example from you! And thank you for resisting those urges to smack ppl. :)

Hey, Whikat - me n you are on the wavelength, eh? :) Man, you sound like an awesome mom - your girls are lucky! Thanks for coming by. :D

Teresa, I like how you say "when allowed to show compassion.." because it really is a benefit to US to be able to show compassion toward others. While the only thing I know for sure is that I know very little - I think that working toward that end is a major component of 'why we are here.' So glad you read, thanks!


GeneriqueMedia profile image

GeneriqueMedia 7 years ago from Earth

Meet new friends, find exciting lives.

The internet is a jungle, but HubPages doesn't have many cannibals. ;)


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 7 years ago from St. Louis

RooBee: I am a very compassionate person, but I sometimes need to remind myself about the things that are important in life (and a major one is compassion for others). It's easy to get caught up in one's own problems and forget or dismiss the problems of others. Thank you for this hub and the "reminder".


Paper Moon profile image

Paper Moon 7 years ago from In the clouds

Well put. Even usually compassionate people can get caught up in the ugly monster. Oh, damn, that is a lot like what christoph said. Should have read all of the comments before commenting. Well? I stand by what I said. Well put. Thank you for sharing. :)


frogdropping profile image

frogdropping 7 years ago

RooBee - This is indeed very thought provoking. And incredibly well written.

"Anoint the blistered feet before you rather than condemning the person they belong to for how they came to be that way." - that sentence encompasses all that you wrote.

I think for many that judgement comes before compassion. Or at least alongside it.

It's one of the things that annoy me about individuals that follow a faith. I dislike being judged as less than worthy based upon my religious beliefs - or lack of them. I'd rather go to my grave somewhere towards righteous than being 100% religious.

And lol no idea where that came from. I guess I was thinking along the lines of the lack of compassion you can see here on hubpages!


ralwus 7 years ago

I like to think I am passionate for compassion. It is difficult to see things taking place that abhor you in say India, or Sri Lanka when you live in Ohio and can't really do a dam thing about it. My heart is still torn though and I cry for them as well as the for a fly in the clutches of a spider as she sinks her fangs into the poor things heart. Ach! such is life!


dennisematt 7 years ago

i just got here, so sorry if im saying something thats already been said. but seeing your view on compassion, you should write on forgivness, another much needed and often misunderstood virtue. it bothers me how many people I know personally view such things as empathy, forgivness, and compassion as "weakness." i usually am alone here in my views as to whats "deserved." thanks for writing this so beautifully. I almost cried...


Pete Maida profile image

Pete Maida 7 years ago

When we hear stories of hardship we feel compassion. Sometimes we will rationalize why we aren't doing anyting to help or we'll rationalize our feelings of being powerless to stop the suffering in the world. We'll use sterotypes and justifications to justify our inaction. If we can't help the person in the story we can help someone closer to us.


\Brenda Scully 7 years ago

I really enjoyed this hub because being compassionate is really important..... You did lots of research, and I love your illustrations. Looking forward to reading more of your hubs.


shibashake profile image

shibashake 7 years ago

This a super-excellent hub RooBee. I also love much of what the Dalai Lama says.

I must admit that I am a pretty judgemental person. It is helpful in certain aspects of life but as you pointed out, it can also become a great weakness and impair quality of life.

I think people can be both judgemental and compassionate. For example, with the case of the homeless or neglected dogs, I feel much compassion for the dogs, but I cannot help being judgemental about their owners :-/  I tend to be more judgemental on issues that I care more for and am passionate about.

This got me to thinking - can change be brought about without judgement and just with compassion?

This is very thought provoking. Will definitely let it stew for a while ...


DwellerB profile image

DwellerB 7 years ago from Rock Island, IL

What a well written, spot on, article. Good job!


RooBee profile image

RooBee 7 years ago from Here Author

GM, that's one of the many reasons I so love hanging out here! :)

Christoph and PM, so pleased to see both of you here. I know that I certainly need reminding (and/or swift kicks to the rear) every so often in this dept. :) Thank you both.

Frog, all I can say is that I can relate to what you said regarding religion 100% - who knew frogs were so philosophical n stuff. :) Thank u for hopping by and dropping a comment! (sorry, couldn't resist :D)

ralwus, you are a true sweet heart - thanks immensely for your words, they are always a treat to read.

And BadCo - thanks so very much!! Another feast for m'soul in the form of a comment. :D


RooBee profile image

RooBee 7 years ago from Here Author

Cabin Girl, you gem - thank you. I'm flattered & delighted (both good things to be). :)

denisematt, DO NOT apologize for leaving a compliment! =) Seriously, though, thanks very much - I'm so happy that you enjoyed this so much. It very much flowed out from the heart.

So True, Pete. As always, I appreciate your insights & comments. Thank you!

Thanks Brenda!! I'm beyond blushing with these nice compliments. Thanks for taking time to read and comment.

Hey shiba! Hmm, do I smell a hub a-brewin'?? I hope so! :D Thank you kindly for commenting!

Hey DwellerB - my most recent hub-quaintance :) Thanks so much to you as well. I am so glad you enjoyed this.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

I am compassionate. Still, it was good of you to remind us, lest we let it slip our minds, how important it is in this Vale of Tears to comfort and aid our neighbor. Who is our neighbor? Why the one over there in the ditch, course.


puppascott profile image

puppascott 7 years ago from Michigan (As far as you know...)

"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 some day in life you will have been all of these." George Washington Carver

I saw this quote when I stopped at a truck stop south of Joplin, Missouri. It was hung on the wall opposite the table where I was eating. I read it many times. I was feeling a little down about my own situation, and this brought clarity to my evening. Thanks for reminding me of that moment.


goldentoad profile image

goldentoad 7 years ago from Free and running....

I am secretly too nice of a guy and I have a problem turning my back on things. Good read.


RooBee profile image

RooBee 7 years ago from Here Author

James, thank you so much. I'm glad this hub could serve some positive purpose. I appreciate your words.

puppascott - thanks for sharing your moment of clarity with me. I have been asked how I manage to keep a good 'tude nearly all the time even in bad circumstances and I always say that its because I don't lose sight of how much I DO have. So glad you read, will definitely remember the quote - except that I don't have to go to Joplin to see it thx to you.:)

goldentoad, your secret is safe with me - glad there's one more nice person out there, though. :) Come to think of it, there are a lot of pretty good folks around here! Thanks for reading & commenting!


Useful Knowledge 7 years ago

I am very compassionate. I really enjoyed reading this hub. Very good job!


RooBee profile image

RooBee 7 years ago from Here Author

Hello, Useful Knowledge- glad to hear of another compassionate soul in the world. We need you! :) I am so pleased that you liked the hub. :D


blondepoet profile image

blondepoet 7 years ago from australia

Beautiful hub Roobee compassion??? I have it alright...ounces and ounces.....kilos in fact....I sometimes curse myself even how I can't stay mad for long enough t omake my point known grrrrrr....I'm glad though it makes you a better person.


RooBee profile image

RooBee 7 years ago from Here Author

Hello BP, an honor to have you! :D In the short time I've been getting to know you, I have seen that you are very kind and compassionate - always giving people the benefit of the doubt.

Don't ever change and thank you for stopping by to comment!!!


Elena. profile image

Elena. 7 years ago from Madrid

Well, RooBee, I'm glad I stumbled upon you and your stuff thanks to this week's hubmob :-) You write wonderfully AND provide something worth thinking about in each your hubs. Well done!


blondepoet profile image

blondepoet 7 years ago from australia

Thanks Roobee you are a wonderful kind compassionate Hubber, and it's been wonderful to have you here amongst us (hugs)


RooBee profile image

RooBee 7 years ago from Here Author

Hooray for hubmobs, Elena! :) I'm completely flattered by your compliments as I am a big fan!

and Blondie! :D ((hugs back)) Thank you so much. It's so nice to hear these words from someone so sweet (talented, prolific, funny, etc..) It's been fantastic being here!!!


jenblacksheep profile image

jenblacksheep 7 years ago from England

This is a wonderfully written hub. I don't know if I'd class myself as a compassionate person or not. I certainly try to be, and sometimes I am overcome with compassion for certain things. But other times it just seems to be out of reach!

But that picture of the soldier holding a baby got me thinking about how awful it must be for soldiers, especially in times of conscription, when you goal is to kill people! And it's not like they had a choice in the matter, if they deserted they were looked down on with disgust, as worse than the killings! Makes you realise how messed up life can be, and how much better everything would be if we did all have compassion!!


RooBee profile image

RooBee 7 years ago from Here Author

Wise words, jenblacksheep. Thanks so much for your compliment. I think most humans (even the nicest ones) struggle with being compassionate to everyone all the time. That lxxy, though, he's another story...:)


AEvans profile image

AEvans 7 years ago from SomeWhere Out There

That is my weakness to much compassion for anything that walks the earth. We have taken in my animals because we want them to go home, nurtured a baby dove which is now a pet and could not be left alone and sponsored 3 children that were in need from our church. My cup runneth over way to much. lololo This article is great and truly represents the meaning of compassion defining it and explanation of it. :)


GenvieveMontblanc 6 years ago

Compassion is one of my favorite topics, and I think you really hit the nail on the head with this thought provoking hub! I had never heard that proverb about the wolves before, but I'm glad I've now learned it from you. Such powerful imagery. I have a friend I'll share that with. I think it will really help her out. Great hub!


RooBee profile image

RooBee 6 years ago from Here Author

AEvans - I never noticed that you left this. Thank you for your sweet words. You are a great example of a compassionate human being and I've enjoyed every correspondence I've had with you. I hope all is going well in your life.

Thank you for your kind thoughts Genvieve! I am so glad that you enjoyed this and that you will share it. I'm smiling ear to ear!


STEVEW13 profile image

STEVEW13 4 years ago from Norwich, England

This is a truly wonderful piece of writing and although I understand the moral and value of compassion, I can admit that it is all too easy to immediately judge instead of taking something at face value. Compassion is something that should be instilled in people at a young age, and not something that is one day learned or achieved. I really look forward to reading more of your work. Thank you for writing this :)

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