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Sunday, October 26, 2014

My Grade (So Far): Compassion

compassion: a feeling of deep sympathy or sorrow for the misfortune or suffering of another, accompanied by a desire to alleviate the pain or remove its cause.

Using that definition, how would you grade yourself (so far) on compassion? Since I'm more comfortable feeling sorrow for the suffering of others vs. sympathy, I'm relieved the "or" separates those two words. So far, so good.

But before settling on my grade, let me register some disquiet about the second part of the definition. Is it fair or honest to call ourselves compassionate because we feel "desire" to alleviate pain or suffering? Isn't acting on that desire the real measure of our compassion? Does that part of the definition bother anyone else?

So, using the definition exactly as written, I'd give myself a "B" (so far) for compassion. But if it's true actions speak louder than words, I'll take a "C" and add compassion to my list of worthwhile attributes still needing work.


  1. I've given this one some thought...thus my delayed response. Unlike you, I tend toward action much more easily than I am able to feel sympathy or sorry for someone's perceived misfortune. I find that I am eager to help out, lend an ear, do what I can, but deep down, there is a part of me that is almost always wanting to show people the proverbial silver lining, yanking them out of their self-pity and expecting them to "buck up", accept their reality and find a way to persevere. My fostering is the perfect example...I happily welcome these babies into my home, but then I expect that their parents, if they hope to be reunified with their children, will make strides in putting their life in order. I realize this is a shortcoming in my ability to truly feel compassion. I've never graded myself, and I'm not sure where my grade would fall, but I know that I need to get better at abandoning my expectations... d.

    1. d; Thanks for a very honest response. This particular series - "My Grade (So Far) - has been among my favorites. It's given me an opportunity to carefully examine common attributes and decide which ones deserve more attention (e.g. compassion, generosity, especially if I gave myself a "C" or lower) vs. those not worth the effort given the amount of time I've got left (e.g. ambition, charm).