The meaning of "compassion" is to recognize the suffering of others and then take action to help.
Compassion literally means "to suffer together."
So what does it mean to "have" compassion? The component of action is what separates compassion from empathy, sympathy, pity, concern, condolence, sensitivity or tenderness.
"Compassion" gets involved when others keep their distance from those who are suffering,
Author Fredrick Buechner describes what it means to have compassion in this way:
"Compassion is sometimes that fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else's skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too."
The Bible defines compassion by showing us what compassion looks like and what is involved with being compassionate.
"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Ephesians 432 NIV
So how does compassion relate in today crisis?
Even as this disease spreads from country to country, infecting people and taking lives, it is also robbing countless other their peace of mind, livelihood and humanity.
Immanual Joseph, a compassion teacher at Compassion Leaders states:
We are, as a species, suckers for the sensational. This is why over-the-top zombie movies become blockbusters and school shooter become media favorites. Which is also why we take-in- the news of bad situations and manufacture an even scarier reality in our minds.
The addendum to this is that, as in other situations of uncertainty, facts get twisted, hope gets squashed and we end up creating needless suffering. Most of the suffering is manufactured inside our minds. As John Milton said in Paradise Lost, "The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven." The choice over our mind's heaven and hell is uniquely ours. We can control the self-inflicted, avoidable suffering in our minds - even if we have little control over the pandemic and how it will play out over the coming days and months."
Dr. Kristen Neff, Associate Professor Human Development and Culture, Educational Psychology Department, at the University of Texas states:
'Self-Compassion" allows us to treat ourselves as we would a good friend.
"Acceptance and Vulnerability", we are an evolving species. This is not the first or the last crisis we will face. We don't have all the answers, but we cannot deny ourselves peace of mind simply because we have not figured out all the answers to all our problems. The faster we learn to accept this, the easier we are on our own suffering.
"Gratitude" - Even as we bundle up inside our fears, there are countless doctors and healthcare workers selflessly stepping into the uncertainty with courage and grit. These people need our gratitude and support.
"Opportunities" - Even the most difficult experiences bring hidden opportunities. Witnessing our personal reaction to this pandemic can bring about a sense of awareness of our mind. Perhaps it can inspire us to remember how socially connected and interdependent we are as a species. This pandemic can become an invitation for us to recognize the "sacrifice" and "selflessness" of strangers. Perhaps it will remind us to become more assertive of heart-centric choices, and become more self-aware and self-compassionate in the process.)
So maybe on this day of commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus and his death at Calvary, we could take a moment and allow ourselves to feel "Compassion"!
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