Compassion is a tender and sympathetic form of caring. It is a warmth of heart that allows you to put yourself in another person’s shoes and give you a strong sense of what he is feeling. Compassion literally means that you feel the other person’s passion. It allows you to tune in to what is going on in someone’s life, so you can understand what he is going through. Being able to feel what another person feels in this way, allows you to help him and care for him in the best way possible.
When someone says “I really feel for you” it means he is compassionate toward you. Sympathy is the particular type of compassion you feel when you reach out to someone who is having a bad time, or who is in emotional or physical pain. But you are also being compassionate when someone is having a good time and is perhaps feeling elated, and you reach out and feel what he is feeling. This type of compassion is usually called identifying with someone or having an affinity with him. The Spanish word “simpatico” is a more accurate word than compassion because it is used in both of these types of situations.
Moreover, you are a sensitive person because you can tune in to who people are, and a caring person because you are responsive to their needs.
There are two elements to compassion: The first element is the ability to be compassionate, to be warm hearted, tender and sympathetic. The second element is understanding and recognizing what the other person is feeling. Just being a compassionate person gives you the ability to tune in to someone and be aware of what he is feeling. Being tuned in to someone in this way also helps you recognize what is the most compassionate thing to do in his particular circumstance. Your compassion allows you to understand how and when to reach out to him.
If you have trouble being compassionate, you find it difficult to tune in to what others are feeling. You tend to be somewhat apathetic and unemotional. Your friends would not consider you the most supportive person in the world, and you are probably not the first person they come to for advice.
If you would like to become a more compassionate person, learn to become more supportive of someone close to you. Purposely choose a specific thing she wants to do, which does not particularly interest you, and support her in that. If you think her project is unwise, you may decide to express that opinion, but if she still wants to do it, give her all the emotional support you can. Being supportive is good practice in being compassionate because it helps you understand the difference between true support, which is emotionally assisting someone in doing what she wants to do, and conditional support, which is supporting someone only when her project also interests you.
Compassion also comes from learning to understand what people are going through. Practice this by becoming a more empathetic and understanding person, by mentally putting yourself in the other person’s shoes, and seeing things from his point of view. This helps you identify with his situation, feelings and motives, and makes you aware of what he is going through. If you have a genuine interest in understanding someone, you are naturally willing to put some energy into finding out what he is all about, and this automatically improves your ability to be compassionate.
Practice listening to people’s problems and talking things out with them. Become a good counselor and advisor. This will develop your compassion by helping you see things from the other person’s point of view.
Also, develop a desire to grow by learning from others. Put some energy into developing a lasting friendship with someone you can learn something from, or teach something to. The potential for growth creates an exciting and dynamic connection between you, that is very conducive to developing a greater level of compassion for both of you.