What is Compassion?
Compassion is key part of spirituality. What is compassion and what is not compassion? What is a compassionate act and what is not? These are questions that come up probably on a day to day basis for most of us. Starting in our home. Do we have compassion for those closest to us?
Compassion does not mean doing for someone else what they can do for themselves. Sometimes the only way and best kind of compassion or “mercy” we can show another is to refrain from injuring them further.
The definition of compassion is in English : “a feeling of deep sympathy or sorrow for another who is stricken with misfortune, accompanied by the strong desire to alleviate the suffering.” The oxford dictionary goes on to include the word pity. The word compassion in the English language leaves much to be desired. The word pity is not one that many of us say and have a good feeling about. Pity is not something we desire, nor is it something that feels good (by English definition) to do.
I have often found it useful to look to older languages to describe words that do not seem to be adequately full in their definition in the English language. In looking to Hebrew and Greek where the English has interpreted the word Compassion from the Bible there are in actuality several different words used for the term that we as English speakers have condensed into one word.
The Hebrew words that have been transferred to English as compassion in the Biblical sense mean something slightly different. Those words mean to show mercy in most of the Old Testament readings. There is a Greek word translated to English as compassion from the New Testament where it means to be moved in the gut and that is in regards to it causing an emotion of feeling that moves us to do something.
The exploration of compassion has really grown in western culture because of increased awareness and enlightenment from the east. It saddens me that we could have been so much further ahead. Truly how far is Rome from the east? So much was made of dividing and separating the world. Christianity just on its own is so incredibly different from one end to the other. Such a broad spectrum of beliefs.
As we separate and keep distant from others within our faith, as well as outside the Christian faith, as Christians we are no different from those Pharisee’s in the time of Jesus when we are like that and they pushed Jesus away and shunned him because they didn’t know and didn’t understand. How will we all be one in our world as long as that continues. Learn from the division. Wasn’t that the message of Babylon? Wasn’t that God’s frustration in dividing us all. Perhaps Babylon occurred so that as we came back together we could heal ourselves with the things remaining we have in common.
Proverbs says that we are to not dismiss wisdom but to learn from it. The first few chapters of Proverbs is dedicated to that very topic. It says that we are to learn from everything we can. That to ask for enlightenment and then ignore it is in fact rejecting an answer that God sends. Even if we are to entertain what is or is not part of compassion for us, we need to remain open to hear what is said and to let everyone be our teacher. In truth we find that we have more in common than we may think. Think about it!
©Adrienne McLeod 2011