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I was supposed to post this a couple weeks ago but it’s been sitting in my drafts until I finally was able to put the finishing touches on it. So here it is now!
At first I thought I would put the compassion post at the end of the Losing Someone series, but it seems as though I felt that compassion would be more relevant to a certain turn of events in my life right now. In the very first post of this series, I talked about why I started talking about a depressing topic even though I haven’t experienced a loss lately. Ah, but life sucks, so on Dec. 19th, I lost my grandfather to a sudden bus crash taking him back home from the casino. The bus turned over on the freeway with 22 injured people taken to the hospital. My grandpa passed away hours later at the hospital due to his injuries.
So here is where compassion comes into play. Surprisingly, most people do not know the definition of the word compassion. It literally means, “to suffer together,” according to Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.
The week after my grandfather’s death and the weekend of his funeral unwrapped many feelings of sympathy, which is a different concept than compassion. The definition of sympathy is “feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.” The key difference I found in sympathy and compassion is that sympathy is “feelings for” someone else’s misfortune. Compassion is such a strong feeling that you have the desire to aid someone in their pain, dwell in it with them and lead them out of it. The Greater Good Science Center continues,
“Compassion is not the same as empathy or altruism, though the concepts are related. While empathy refers more generally to our ability to take the perspective of and feel the emotions of another person, compassion is when those feelings and thoughts include the desire to help. ”
At church, my pastor gave us a simple definition of compassion, Com- = Common, -passion = pain, therefore “Compassion” = Common Pain. It became the example of Christ’s compassion, literally becoming human and relieving mankind’s pain by taking it upon himself. At school, my English teacher gave us a similar definition of “shared suffering.” It was concerning the quote from A Tale of Two Cities said by Sydney Carton,
“God bless her for her sweet compassion!”
Although I pictured compassion as a stronger feeling and am a bit skeptical about this word choice, Lucie Manette shows a clear desire to want to help Sydney Carton who was down in the dumps. What sparked the quote was when Carton asked Lucie to hear him out. Noticing his feelings of despair, Lucie Manette replies with “If it will do you any good, Mr. Carton, if it would make you happier, it would make me very glad!” an attempt to ease and take away part of his pain.
Many of us see different words daily that we think we know the definition of, but we don’t. We know the general idea and the connotation because we don’t usually take the time to look up words in a dictionary or online. Instead, we make inferences but it can sometimes lead us to not see the in depth picture. I know for sure that I use words that I don’t even know the full meaning to. We might say we know something, but when asked to define it, we can’t because we’re not exactly sure. Instead, we have an idea. So a thing that I want to do more often is to spend time reading a dictionary. What?! People use reading the dictionary as a joke for the epitome of boredom. But when I think about how many words I know the actual definition of, I feel as though reading a dictionary may not be too bad.