Image Credit: Calm

The Ground of Compassion

Compassion & Presence

How are you showing up in others’ lives? Are you intentionally present? Are you holding open a space in your heart and in your dialogue with others, for them to freely share their thoughts and feelings without analysis, evaluation, criticism, judgment, or diagnosis — without trying to advise or fix or improve?

Compassion grows out of presence. All that is required is emotional intimacy — openness and vulnerability. By holding presence with and for others, we create space for our own compassion to touch their awareness.

This compassion for others is a fundamental social building block of all healthy human relationships. Compassion is necessary for human life to thrive. We participate, therefore, in a loving, life-giving, often healing process when we hold presence for others and demonstrate compassion.

Compassion vs Empathy

Compassion is notably different from empathy — feeling what we imagine others feel. Empathy is raw feeling informed and enabled by a combination of our senses and imagination. Empathy is not intentional, but instinctive.

Compassion, on the other hand, does not require empathy; rather, it only requires us to deeply value others, care about them, and be consciously present with them. Empathy may inspire compassion, but it does not necessarily need to.

Empathy may also inspire avoidance, if we are over-exposed to negative feelings, through empathy, we may start to avoid the source of those feelings. This is not compassionate.

When empathy leads to compassion, it’s a good thing, but we should recognize that empathy does not always necessarily motivate us to act out of love, kindness, or compassion. We should prioritize compassion, therefore, over empathy, and choose to lovingly and kindly remain present and emotionally safe in the lives of those we love.

Compassion Is an Action

Compassion is not a feeling. Concern is a feeling, but compassion is an action. We don’t just feel compassion, we show compassion. Compassion without action is just concern or worry.

The simplest action, however, can demonstrate compassion. At a minimum, all we need to do is show up, hold presence, and be open and vulnerable with others. This loving, life-giving action affirms the dignity and worth of the person to whom compassion is shown.

We all need compassion. Especially now, in this present moment, in this time in our lives and in history, we all need more loving kindness. We all need to show up for each other with love and genuine compassion.

© 2021 Noel Bagwell. All Right Reserved.

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