In this article, you will learn the difference between Empathy and compassion. It will help you to understand how compassion can lead to more connectedness and gives you ways to train and express more compassion.
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One of my character strengths is that I have a lot of Empathy for others. I can feel what others feel, and I can see the world through their eyes. I, intuitively, can understand why people act certain ways, and I can anticipate the needs of others. Without much effort, I can find the right words for how someone feels. This creates a strong connection between me and others. This quality has helped me a lot in my life.
For more information about other benefits of Empathy, please read my article on what you need to know about Empathy.
In his book “Humankind, a hopeful history,” Rutger Bregman writes about a study by neurologist Tania Singer. She studied what happens in our brain when we experience Empathy. It seems that Empathy is exhausting. It can even lead to people becoming sad.
That is true; my emotions can get carried away by those of others. I can feel deep sadness but abundant joy and happiness as well. Both cost energy and affect my mood. Both extremes exist in this world, and it is up to us to be aware of them.
What is compassion?
Comparable to Empathy, compassion is an understanding and feeling of someone’s pain or distress. Compassion goes further. By showing compassion, you help to alleviate or mitigate the sorrow.
Compassion takes more self-control. It is constructive and requires a state of detachment from the person or situation. You can train this skill.
Rutger Bregman gives a good example: As a parent, you don’t want to feel your child’s fear and start crying in the corner of the room (Empathy). You want to comfort and reassure (compassion). You don’t share the suffering of others.
Compassion helps you to see the grief of others and then take action.
Reflecting on this, I realize that Empathy is much easier for me and perhaps more passive. Compassion requires more effort than Empathy. Both can result in more energy and upliftment of mindset. Compassion is more sustainable because Empathy helps in the moment, and compassion helps to deal with sorrow or joy.
How to have more compassion?
Start first for yourself
Compassion is a state of awareness. Are you treating yourself with compassion, kindness, and fairness? Give praise to your successes and forgive yourself for your mistakes. Also, focus on your talents, your qualities, and your character strengths. Read this article to discover your character strengths. By starting to have more compassion for yourself, you start to feel compassion for others, according to Steve Barker in “Barking up the Wrong Tree.”
By volunteering, you train to have more compassion. You connect with others when you volunteer. It enables you to meet people who are struggling in other aspects of their life than you are. Contact churches (even if you’re not religious), community centers, city halls, hospitals, or homes for the elderly for volunteering opportunities in your area.
You can help to reassure or comfort someone by encouraging, giving advice, or exploring the optimistic side of the situation.
Empathy or compassion is not showing sympathy. It is more than having no judgment and sharing a perspective on a certain issue.
Perhaps you prefer to have Empathy for those you like or those who appeal to you. Compassion is unconditional and is something you give to someone regardless of opinion, religion, sex, or race according to Steve Pavlina in “Personal Development for Smart People”.
Expressing compassion helps me to be aware that we are all connected. You can start an email conversation with someone else in the world to find out what you have in common to experience connection.
By listening, thinking, and choosing your words carefully, you can train your compassion skills.
You can perform random acts of kindness (buy a Caffè Sospeso) or start treating others you want to be treated.
Perhaps you’ve treated someone not kindly or unjustly in the past. Contact that person today and see what you can do to make things right again.
These are all actions of love and increase your sense of connectedness and compassion.
Respect the space of others
Sometimes people do not want to tell you everything when dealing with things at work or home. Don’t pressure compassion on others. If you tell them that you support them and that they can contact you whenever they want, they will feel more empowered to act for themselves. And if others trust you with their sorrows or joys, please do not share it with others (gossip).
Will I refrain from being empathetic? I don’t think so since it enabled me to connect with so many people. Perhaps we first need Empathy and compassion next. I will start to express more compassion to those around me. By expressing unconditional compassion, I am less passive and attached to the negative or positive emotions of others. Then I can start to help so that they can elevate and uplift themselves.
By helping and loving others, I am learning to love myself more.
What is compassion? How do you have more compassion? Let me know in the comment field below. The other readers of this article. and I are looking forward to reading from you!
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–Humankind, a hopeful history, Rutger Bregman
–Personal Development for Smart People, Steve Pavlina
–Barking up the Wrong Tree, Eric Barker