Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Compassion - What is it Exactly?

Compassion is described as an emotion that is a sense of shared suffering, most often combined with a desire to alleviate or reduce the suffering of another. Compassion essentially arises through empathy, and is often characterized through actions, wherein a person acting with compassion will seek to aid those they feel compassionate for.

I come from a family of highly empathetic people. My mother is a sympathizer. She takes on your worry and makes it her own. She’s been known to bake pies and deliver arm loads of fresh vegetables just to cheer a soul up. My father is a fixer. You call him, he’ll fix it. My birth mother marched, protested and got arrested in the turbulent ‘70’s. My husband stops for distressed motorists and helps to push broken vehicles out of busy intersections. I seem to feel everyone’s pain and have an intense desire to “take care of” and “make it better” for those who cross my path, even a pigeon with a broken wing. And our children have their grandmother’s penchant for bringing home stray animals.

Adolph Hitler once said that compassion is for the weak. He was wrong. I am not weak nor are the others in my family who taught compassion to me. On the contrary, they have a quiet, peaceful strength that I’m sure Hitler never imagined existed.

In his teaching on compassion, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said, “If you have a sincere and open heart, you naturally feel self- worth and confidence, and there is no need to be fearful of others.”

I believe Hitler was a very fearful man. The Dalai Lama is not. The contrast is stark and clear.

The Dalai Lama also said, "I believe that at every level of society - familial, tribal, national and international - the key to a happier and more successful world is the growth of compassion. We do not need to become religious, nor do we need to believe in an ideology. All that is necessary is for each of us to develop our good human qualities. I try to treat whoever I meet as an old friend. This gives me a genuine feeling of happiness. It is the practice of compassion. "

In the Dalai Lama’s writings on compassion, I found simple explanation and advice about incorporating this concept in to all aspects of my life.

For parents, like me, struggling to teach this virtue to their children, I discovered this short article by Families with Purpose and the link to a book on the subject.

I have much to learn about turning my constant concern into consistent action. I think these resources are a good starting point.


Anna Lozyk Romeo said...

Wow, it is amazing how I visit a blog and in the post is something that I needed to read. This is such inspirational write up. Really enjoyed, and thanks again for sharing this with us - glad to meet people with similar thoughts.
Anna :)

Lisa McGlaun said...


That's wonderful to know. Did you read the Dalai Lama's article? I thought it was just amazing and also, exactly what I needed to hear today.


Nature Nut /JJ Loch said...

Beautiful post!!! Compassion is the beginning of wisdom. :D

I have a question. When I add my labels at the bottom of my posts and use commas, they end up a space away from the word, even though I place them right after the word. Is there a trick to this?

Hugs, JJ...who is working on her blog tag. :D

Lisa McGlaun said...


I left you a message on your blog about the labels. Wish I had some good advice for you but I'm muddling my way through this myself.


La delirante said...

Hello Lisa!

Great post. I love the Dalai Lama's books. I am still struggling to get my whole Dalai Lama's library :) I find the book about compassion to be very interesting and helpful. Everytime I read one of his books I feel peace.

Have a great weekend!

Lisa McGlaun said...


I don't know as much about him as I'd like to. I'm just beginning to learn and I am completely fascinated. It's like you said. I feel peace and truth resonating in what he says.

Best Wishes,

Anonymous said...

I agree with you that compassion is not a sign of weakness, but so often society seems to read it that way - don't you find? And this can be frustrating. Making the distinction opens a dialogue that I think we really need more of... thanks for your post.

Lisa McGlaun said...


Sometimes in our world even the willingness to compromise is seen as weakness. All we can do is make the steps toward compassion and compromise in our lives and see how many people follow the example.

Thanks for commenting. It's good to see you here.