Saturday, March 27, 2010

Thoughts on Compassion

In a tarot reading I had over the weekend with my good friend (and the woman who taught me to read tarot cards), Meridee, she said that my upcoming lessons will focus on deepening my understanding and level of compassion.

I have been pondering the meaning of compassion ever since. Compassion is something I feel I have always had, and yet, as I study it deeper, I realize that there are several layers to this.

I remembered some information my good friend and spiritual guide, Laura Rose, gave me on Sympathy vs. Empathy.  I found this information to be very helpful on what is implied through each. She gave me a handout that explained some of the differences. Here is an excerpt from that handout:

Introduction: When you find yourself in a situation where you want to help or give help, your good intentions will not outweigh the potential damage that can be done by incorrect focus of your energy. Because the situation is made up of energy, the only person who can solve it is the person who created it.** The most important gift you can give anyone is your confidence that they can work out their own problems.
  • Sympathy -- "I feel your problem. Oh, it is such a big problem. Let me have it so that I can solve it for you because you cannot. I give you pity."
  • Empathy -- "I feel your problem. Because I want to validate you, I will hold up your problem and project it back to you to show you that I understand.
  • Compassion -- "I feel your problem. I understand how hard it is to work out your problem because sometimes it is hard for me also. I have confidence that you can resolve your problem because of the natural laws of energy. I know you can work with your own energy and solve your problem. I also know that you will continue to repeat the problem situation until you can solve it for yourself."
** great quote!

The same day I got the tarot reading from Meridee, I came across the following quote on compassion in the book Power vs. Force, by Dr. David Hawkins. Coincidence? Doubtful!
Compassion is the doorway to grace, to the final realization of who we are and why we're here, and to the ultimate source of all existence. (page 284)
As I ponder these thoughts, I can see how deepening my understand will impact all of my relationships -- from my kids, my husband, my friends, my clients...and to people I don't even know.

Compassion is something I want to further explore and more deeply integrate into my life.

What's your understanding of compassion and how do you express it in your life?


Allison said...

This is very interesting... I often have thought about the difference between "sympathy" and "empathy," but not as much about compassion. Thanks for the insight, Sheri. I will be contemplating this for a while...

Bonnie said...

Sheri, I woke up this morning with a problem on my mind. Something my husband is struggling with and how to help him. I asked for guidance and got out of bed, fixed my coffee, decided to hop on the computer. Your post told me exactly what I needed to know! I have goosebumps.. Isn't amazing how that works? Thank you for your guidance!

Bonnie said...

ps. I just requested "Power VS. Force" from the library.

Unknown said...'s challenging in a culture of helpbulness, as it's hard to discern when to step in and when not too. I work as a counselor and I've always joked that I should make a t-shirt that reads "I'm not here to help!" Being "helpful" is usually counterproductive and disempowering. Compassion, on the other hand, show's that we recognize the tough situation the person is in and yet we trust that they have what it takes to make it through. Nice post!

Lori Lavender Luz said...

Such great thoughts arise from reading this.

I am active in the infertility community. I deliberately try to stay away from sympathy and head for empathy or compassion when I come on a post of a person in pain.

It's not always easy. I often DO want to solve. To help. To offer what we call "assvice."

But instead, I take a moment to visualize the person as she/her truly is -- a divine being of light. Sometimes I try to reflect that back to her/him. Sometimes I can't find the right words for the intended person.

We have a shortcut phrase in the IF community: "I am abiding with you." It is a phrase of compassion.

Thank you for this post, Sheri. You are right that you've always had profound compassion, even as a child.