How do you Describe Compassion?

What causes us to have more compassion in one situation over another?

I’ve been thinking a lot about it the last few days. It came about at the ranch I’m sitting at with 120 alpacas, 2 guard dogs, 1 African Gray, and 1 barn cat. I’ve grown very fond of the barn cat. I am drawn to the animals that seem to know I won’t harm them. I have more than a few favorite alpacas as well. If they show trust for me, I fall head over for them.

This cat loves to play on the hay bales as I’m trying to get them into the bag. A bale fell over and landed on her (the owners tell me there have been many near misses.) She scurried out faster than I could move 100 pounds off her but she hurt her leg or paw in the process. She limped off away from me and kept away no matter how hard I tried to see her. Eventually, I stayed put, and she hobbled over to me. I gathered her in my arms and just cried apologizing over and over.

She improved as the day progressed, but I fretted all day about that. Each visit to the barn, I would check her leg and how she moved on it. I babied her, watched her climb around and by the end of the day, she was climbing on the hay bale stack again.

So is it compassion that I feel? Dictionary.com says this:

 “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.”

I believe this statement to be true in the above situation. However, I have always felt that I had compassion to feel for her and other animals or people in the manner I do.

I don’t believe it’s “sympathy and sorrow” when people think of compassion towards another. I believe a “strong desire to alleviate the suffering” is where we tend to go. Can’t that happen without sympathy or sorrow?

I’m curious about your thoughts on compassion. Do you have a strong desire to alleviate suffering without feeling sympathy or sorrow? Please comment below.

Thanks for reading.

3 thoughts on “How do you Describe Compassion?

  1. Reminds me, how Michael Moore said that more people seemed to get really upset over the lady, in Roger + Me, who killed and skinned a rabit, to sell for food, than in scenes depicting people suffering tragedy.
    I belong to the group Care2.com a site with many cool resources, including being able to write and share petitions. If you write and share a petition about someone abusing a dog or kicking a goose, likely you will get MORE signatures than one about a person, even children being harmed!
    One thing I take comfort in is how many people express outrage when some abusive deed makes the news or circulates on Facebook. Sometimes people make comments about how bad people are becoming, overlooking the fact their their are MANY more who like them are outraged and upset which means they are likely as kind hearted as they are.
    I also remember going through that phase in childhood when I thought I had a truly special relationship with animals, and I’ve seen it in other kids too. Some people never outgrow that feeling. I guess that can be a good thing.

  2. Great question, Dawn. I’m the textbook definition. My compassion comes with sympathy and sorrow in equal doses. But perhaps if we could strive to eliminate suffering without being bogged down by emotion we’d change more lives?

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