What is Compassion?

The technical definition

Compassion is the capacity to understand the emotional state of another or oneself. A truly compassionate person must become an active participant in the suffering of another.

Huh? What does that mean?

Have you ever seen someone who was hurting and found yourself hurting as well? Did that inward hurt prompt you to act on behalf of that individual? This is compassion.

As a parent, it is often easy to feel compassion for your child. When your child is hurt by someone else’s mean words on the playground, your instant response is not only sadness for your child’s hurt feelings but also a desire to do something to prevent the other child from hurting yours again. You may even take the step of talking to the offending child or his or her parents to bring light on the circumstance. Your compassion for your child’s pain combined with your parental desire to protect spurred this action.

How can I use this in my life?compassion

Embrace compassion in your life and pass this virtue onto your children.

Compassion starts with looking inside. By taking some time to understand your own emotions and responses to life events and develop a healthy self-love, you will be better equipped to have compassion for others. You can help your children in this way by helping them understand how they feel when people act a certain way toward them.

Provide your children opportunities to interact with people from myriad backgrounds. Get your children and your entire family involved in community programs and projects that show them a little more about what the world is like outside of their home.

Compassion requires action. It is not a skill you can learn simply by watching. While you can and should model compassion in your home, give your children opportunities to actively show compassion. Teach them to look at situations from other’s viewpoints, thereby practicing empathy and learning compassion.

One of the most practical ways to teach compassion is with animals. Animals cannot stand up for their feelings or express their pain verbally. A child who takes care of an animal must learn compassion. If you are not able to have an animal in your home, allow your child to volunteer at a local animal shelter or help at a farm to learn compassion around living creatures.


Armstrong, K. (20112010). Twelve steps to a compassionate life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

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