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Are we compassionate enough?

Updated on May 4, 2012

How do we define compassion?

Compassion can be defined in different ways, but I suppose it is a basic kindess with a deep awareness of the suffering of other living things. I think it is one of the most important qualities for a human to posses. We all know what it is to be treated with kindness from others when we're distressed or facing tragedy, and this also plays an important role in our mental and physical wellbeing

Today in 2012 we are constantly being confronted with crises linked to a lack of compassion for each other, as well as our environment. Our brain is very sensitive to the social context in which we live, so as well as compassion we can become ruthless and cruel. I feel it is important therefore to deliberately focus on compassion and nurture it.

Life can be tough at times. It is no wonder that we have all at some point pondered on how to understand it and the challenges as well as the triumphs it brings. Even when we feel good in ourselves we're increasingly aware of the suffering in the world and often feel inner calls to create a more fair environment for all. Despite all our modern advances, we still crave to find a deeper meaning.

Compassion can be healthy

Being compassionate towards ourselves and others can help with the many challenges of life as it means we are focussing on inner development of social connectedness. It has been proved by psychologists that those who receive kindness, gentleness warmth and compassion are compared with those who don't, more confident, secure, happier and less proned to mental or physical health problems. They are also more caring and respectful of others and it is this sense of security which helps to lesson negative emotions. Rather than trying to impress people, it is better for us to 'learn how to listen and take a genuine and sincere interest in other people and focus on them' (Dale Carnegie 1939) Unfortunately, we live in societies that neither teach nor inspire this and often end up falling victims to pressures and values that are created for us. We use our own experience of feelings and self identity to judge others. We also make assumptions when it comes to issues of freedom and rights.

Understanding we are all different

Understanding that we are individuals can create challenges as we have to learn how to be empathic and to recognize that values and ways of thinking vary between us. It means that we have to look at emotions such as envy and also accept our own limitations. We all at times compare ourselves to others, and even try to model ourselves on people we perhaps admire. But this can easily lead to self criticism if we're not able to accept ourselves as we are and affect our relationships with others.

Is compassion a weakness?

According to Greek tradition, the only people deserving of compassion are those who do not deserve their suffering. The Romans thought that compassion was a weakness and when David Cameron, leader of the Conservative party in Britain, recently suggested that some unruly youth probably require more love and support than others, he was accused of being a "hug a hoodie" politician. People differ in their understanding of compassion and view it as a weakness and therefore resist developing this quality. Compassion isn't about becoming less able but about becoming more able and focussed.

Compassion with ourselves and others can offer a wealth of happiness and positive results in our various states of wellbeing and can enable us to create happiness for others and the society in which we live. If we just continue to pursue better and more modern technology etc then we may have a wonderful efficient society, that is just horrible and miserable to live in.


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    • ShalahChayilJOY profile image

      Shalah Chayil 6 years ago from Billings, Montana

      There is no doubt that we all need to learn to look for the good and the positive in one another and appreciate and affirm that. It is all too easy to see what to us appears to be faults and focus on trying to correct those things which only alienates others. So many religions are based on that foundation! I see religion as rivers that are drying up leaving a dry riverbed full of beautiful precious stones for those that are truly wise enough to gather together into a crown for the KING soon to return.

    • sharmav profile image

      Vivek Sharma 6 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      If your compassion varies with the individuals, I guess you are not compassionate. When one is compassionate they want everyone to be happy rather than family to be happier than strangers.

      I think lack of compassion in today's society is primarily due to Online social networks that is continuously taking away the opportunities for people to interact face to face. As a kid I used to play with other children in the community and hence developed compassion, love and friendship that is alive till date. However, the kids today aren't getting enough opportunities to develop those due to Online Social gaming and evolution of technology that is keeping them indoors and isolating them from the society.

      It is, as parents, still our responsibility to encourage the opportunities to develop compassion.

    • cherriquinn profile image

      cherriquinn 6 years ago from UK. England. Newcastle upon Tyne

      ShalahChayilJoy. You are right it has been proved that a person at the very least finds it difficult to give what he/she has not received. By compassion, I certainly do not mean accepting behaviour that is self destructive as a means of approval or for any other means. I am very aware that is enabling or empowering another. However,compassion simply has to start with acceptance of that person, despite our own perejudices or perceptions of what we feel is right. How can we begin to 'lift people up' if there first interaction with us is clouded by feelings of fear or of being judged? Compassion can enable others to begin to have a whole,positive self image and therefore gradually lesson their need to seek 'acceptance and approval in ways that only continue to perpetuate their fractured self image.' Thankyou for your comments.

    • ShalahChayilJOY profile image

      Shalah Chayil 6 years ago from Billings, Montana

      It has been said, that a person cannot give what he has not received. IF by compassion you mean accepting behavior and actions that are clearly self destructive and non-beneficial to simply support a person and give them approval, then that is not compassion. That is enabling!

      Yeshua is compassion itself. He lifted people up and out of behavior that was self-defeating. That is true compassion. Psychological brokenness causes people to look for acceptance and approval in ways that only continue to perpetuate their fractured image of self. And in the interest of 'support' many others applaud their fight to stay fractured and take comfort in other fractured individuals applause.

      True compassion lifts up and heals the fractures. Yeshua heals. He is compassion.

    • cherriquinn profile image

      cherriquinn 6 years ago from UK. England. Newcastle upon Tyne

      Thankyou Sameer

    • sameer.anand profile image

      Sameer Anand 6 years ago from Pilani (India)


      Awesomely said!

      And Beautiful hub! I just forgot to mention it in the middle of discussion!

      Please post more of it. VOTED UP!

      Please post more of it!

    • cherriquinn profile image

      cherriquinn 6 years ago from UK. England. Newcastle upon Tyne

      yoginijoy Thankyou for taking the time to read this article and for the follow! We certainly do need more compassion in the world but unfortunately not everyone is in touch with their inner self and therefore unable to comprehend what compassion even is. You certainly can't 'teach' it, and although we all have the ability to naturally express compassion I'm afraid the inability to connect within can often prevent this.

      Thankyou again and I will certainly take the time to read your recent hub.

    • cherriquinn profile image

      cherriquinn 6 years ago from UK. England. Newcastle upon Tyne

      Sameer. I think that those who give negative responses to compassion/empathy often have deep rooted fears themselves. I feel if you can look at it from this perspective then it is very difficult to become upset or offended. Of course, there are some people who simply react negatively for its own sake and I, as I pointed out in an earlier response, deal with this in my own way. On the whole I personally am not particularly affected by this but do realize that everyone is different and for some, this may a hurtful experience causing them to 'close up'. At the end of the day I feel we are all sensitive souls and that some just hide it better than others!

    • yoginijoy profile image

      yoginijoy 6 years ago from Mid-Atlantic, USA

      Great topic and well written. I write about meditation and just published a hub on a meditative practice that develops one's compassion. We need more compassion in the world, and we must start with being compassionate with ourselves. Please write more on this topic it is very necessary!

    • sameer.anand profile image

      Sameer Anand 6 years ago from Pilani (India)

      I understand what you said and you are quite correct too. But compassion towards someone does get affected if its completely one sided.

      If you are compassionate towards someone(by which i mean you are kind, gentle, understand how he/she thinks and take a genuine interest in him/her), you subtly develop an expectation from that individual to treat you in the same way. Many times it happens without conscious awareness. And then if you receive a feedback that u don't like, you suffer. Now its often our choice to forgive the person or not but this kind of feedback can affect our compassion towards him/her.

      And as I said similar repeated feedback can completely make a person lose his/her compassion.

    • cherriquinn profile image

      cherriquinn 6 years ago from UK. England. Newcastle upon Tyne

      Hi sameer

      I hear what you are saying. However, for me compassion is also about being open with people and having a willingness to see life/situations from their view. I understand that this is empathy, but I feel you need compassion in order to show empathy. I never feel that feedback ie non verbal or even if it were to be verbal, would or could ever change my fundamental make up.

    • sameer.anand profile image

      Sameer Anand 6 years ago from Pilani (India)

      What I think is that its the feedback that we receive after doing something makes us to do more or less of it. Same thing happens with compassionate behavior too.

      If you are being compassionate to someone but he/she doesn't understand the importance of it, then that sends a wrong message back to you. And if it happens multiple times then you have a notion set that its too silly to be caring and compassionate about someone and you stop doing it. In some cases people deliberately start ill behaving.

      Other than this ksinll and Nell are also quite right. Sometimes either due to the race of life or lack of respect, people believe that its not possible to respect and honor the emotions of contemporaries and the message just propagates through the mass.

    • cherriquinn profile image

      cherriquinn 6 years ago from UK. England. Newcastle upon Tyne

      Hi Nell, yes there will be individuals who take advantage of good natured people, but I think if we're intuitive then we can usually recognize them and deal with the situation accordingly. I've always said that I'd rather reach the majority and not worry too much about those who regard compassion as a weakness.I feel this is there weakness.

      hope you enjoyed your ice-cream! Linda

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

      Compassion can be a weakness sometimes, but only if you are being too caring, and taking up your time with someone who basically is taking the Micky so to speak, but most of the time in this day and age we should show compassion as there are many out there that don't, nell

    • cherriquinn profile image

      cherriquinn 6 years ago from UK. England. Newcastle upon Tyne

      Hi Ksinll I very much agree with your comments and feel that within a corporate environment those who genuinely foster team values do to a degree demonstrate compassion and this in turn contributes to productivity, even if it is not recognized or even resisted as a useful mentoring skill! It therefore does not surprize me that they are the most productive. Thankyou for reading.

    • profile image

      ksinll 6 years ago

      In an increasingly competitive society compassion can be seen as "getting in the way" and having no usefulness in terms of economic advancement. However, companies that foster strong mentorship and team values are more productive ones.


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