Empathy & Compassion

When I talk about empathy and compassion, I often get asked to explain them.  A practical definition of empathy is when somebody tells you how they are feeling and you say, “well, of course you feel that way!”.  Empathy is the thought part of understanding the context of someone’s background or their point of view.  You can imagine the place they are coming from that leads them to the experience they are having.  Compassion is when you feel a mix of love and hurt or pain or another feeling toward that person as they are telling their story.  Empathy says, “yes I can understand how you feel” and compassion says, “I also feel for you”.  Empathy and compassion don’t require agreement with the person.  You neither have to agree with their point of view, nor say they are right in feeling that way.  You only need to allow your mind a short time to imagine their experience.  Using your imagination allows you to practice empathy and compassion for almost anyone at almost any time.  The benefit of this practice is that receiving empathy and compassion makes us more caring people.  Do you want less crime, less road rage, less theft, less abuse?  Treat each person like a human, practice empathy and compassion, and do your part to contribute to a better environment for all of us.