Compassion and Empathy

Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means that you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You do not have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.

Rick Warren

People often use compassion and empathy interchangeably. Going forward, I think it’ll prove useful to define empathy as sharing other’s experiences, and compassion as caring for others.

Often, it is argued that you can’t have one without the other. I don’t agree. I do think it proves useful when empathetic people are compassionate, because when we take the time to step into someone else’s life and understand why they are doing what they are doing, caring- happens naturally. Compassion tends to be one of the byproducts of empathy.

But I also believe we can learn to be more empathetic by including acts of compassion in our lives.

As Krista Tippet says: Compassion is not about agreeing with some else, compassion is about making a choice to honor their humanity.

Acts of compassion are as simple as showing up and listening; no one says we have to compromise our convictions to be compassionate.


My inspiration to synthesize this piece came from Edge.orgs conversation on Empathy & Compassion and Krista Tippet’s Ted Talk


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