What Does Compassion Mean?
Let's simplify the question, "What does compassion mean?" There are long definitions in dictionaries, and all are probably accurate. But we like to get right to the heart of the matter so we will offer a shorter version.
I think it comes down to humility and dignity. Humility allows us to recognize the hurt and suffering faced by others because we are consciously challenging ourselves to be compassionate every time we get a chance.
Humility means we set aside our own strong opinions so we can see why someone might feel as they do. And as we all know, our actions are the results of our thoughts. If we feel anger for too long and it gets too tough, some will react in anger and this leads to violence.
Humility allows us to think about the internal struggles others might be facing. As Stephen Covey teaches us, "seek first to understand, then to be understood." What is compassion? Treating everyone with dignity. We recognize their pain, we honestly care deeply for their well-being and if we can help them, we lend a hand.
Dignity is part of the definition to the question "What does compassion mean?" Why should people in our nation face hunger? Why should they worry about finding a warm place to go through a cold, winter night?
Why should anyone fear being endangered or have rights taken away based on gender, race, age, religion or appearance? There are no "throw away lives." Dignity is part of compassion. All lives have value.
Everything begins at home. We will discuss this more in an upcoming page about putting compassion into action. To be a person of compassion, we must cut ourselves some slack. Too often, we are our own worst enemy. For some of us, we are unfair critics of ourselves. The flip side is true for some. Some live in an entitlement mentality that absolves themselves of any responsibility.
If we are feeling down, if we are hurting inside, the best thing we can do is to reach out to help someone. We all have skills that can help others.
Small things done over and over to help, person by person, lead to big things making huge changes. This is historical fact. All big changes began person to person and then grew exponentially.
Dignity and Humility
By humbling ourselves to see why people react as they do, we build bridges. What does compassion mean? Putting ourselves in their shoes for a little while to see things from their perspective.
By treating people with the dignity they have earned and should expect, we bring out the best in them too. And then they pass it along.
And the results become evident. Compassion becomes a wave instead of a trickle. And humanity is lifted.
What is compassion? Dignity and humility.
Advisor to the Pewamo Protect Life Team