Compassion is a verb

By Contributor R. Skyler Oberst

Editor’s Note: This week SpokaneFAVS contributors are exploring the definition of compassion. Read Monday’s panel on this topic here.

R. Skyler Oberst

I have a confession to make. I have an intellectual crush on Karen Armstrong. I’ve read most of her books and think she is brilliant. So brilliant, in fact, I would buy a poster of her to hang on my wall, if they made them. But I digress. I say this because I am already on board with compassion and how it can cultivate a lasting change in the heart as well as the community (Armstrong is the creator of Charter for Compassion).

Compassion for me is not just a feeling, but an active reaction to suffering around us. This term is so loaded nowadays it has lost some of its meaning. So many people equate it with sympathy, or empathy. Compassion means to act. Only when we act out of compassion do we begin to realize compassion is the purest and delightfully simplest path to understanding what it means to be human and how to make the world a better place.

Compassion is not for the weak and cannot be understood from the hilltops of tolerance or countenance. It shouldn’t be thought of as a “warm and fuzzy feeling” or something that can be found in a John Lennon song. The key to truly unlocking compassion, to fully grasp its depth and power, you have to selflessly act for others. It is a lifelong journey that will enrich the lives around you and benefit your own life as well.

Whether you are religious or non-religious, compassion is the sole emotional response that defines who we are as humans and it will be the leading force behind making the world a better place.


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