The word compassion is derived from the Latin roots com- "together" or “with”+ pati "to suffer" or “endure”. To endure or to suffer with another is something that comes from the heart.
One would think that experience begets compassion and that those who have experienced similar situations would inherently find compassion for others who follow the same path, but this isn’t always so. I have observed the opposite in both myself and others; the scenario in which those who have walked in the same shoes turn their back on those currently in similar situations. I once naively thought that circumstances of the same caliber were created equal. They are not. We have a different capacity for that which we can personally handle and for the compassion we have for others. For these reasons, all experiences are not created equal nor do equivalent circumstances beget commensurate amounts of compassion. However, it all balances out in the end. Fortunately, the world is blessed with souls who find compassion less the experience to obtain it.
I began writing this piece several months ago and kept running into fallacies in my thinking. I was troubled with how we could possibly create a more compassionate world when it is necessary to distance oneself from situations for the sake of self-preservation. My mind took twists and turns down a maze of thoughts as to where the balance was between compassion and self-preservation. I had a moment of clarity while driving and quickly sketched out this train of thought in The Power of Intention.
This moment of clarity resulted in classifying different forms of compassion such that all people can be compassionate to one another always. It is all in one's intention. This in and of itself a difficult thing to understand and often misunderstood.
Branch to bough, with an open heart, compassion is always available for both the receiver and the giver.
- To endure or suffer with another from a distance in a detached state. In this state of compassion one can offer his hand to another through prayer, good thoughts and actions.
- To endure or suffer with another while maintaining boundaries. An example of this may be to be directly involved in someone’s life, but choosing to abstain from conversation about that which they may be suffering. While I have no empirical evidence, my instinct tells me that albeit an extremely beneficial form of compassion to practice, indirect compassion is likely to be the least practiced. I find that people often go for outliers when it comes to unknown situations such as one where practicing a form of compassion is appropriate. It is easier to go all in or do nothing.
- To endure or suffer with another directly. One might say this is a gentler form of empathy. When one has direct compassion for another she is involved in someone's life on a regular basis, understands the sufferings and endures them with him/her. This is not to say that she takes on the feelings of the sufferer. That would be moving into a position of empathy. We can have direct compassion for each other at all points in life, both good and troubled. Although, during the latter it is often beneficial for most to take positions of distant or indirect compassion. This form of compassion usually falls on caretakers, family members, spouses, lovers, etc