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Is Compassion Gone? How to be Compassionate at Any Time

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Compassion is one of the good characteristics of a person, but if you’re trying to be more compassionate or struggling to teach your kids how to be compassionate, it can feel really complicated and difficult to explain and implement.

how to be compassionate

As a mother, I’m often tempted to take on the “mama bear” role. My kids both have food allergies, which makes them “different” from other kids. The compassion that others have shown us (or not shown us, as is sometimes the case) is amazing.

Table of Contents:

  • What is compassion?
  • Why is compassion important?
  • Examples of a compassionate person
  • The best ways to show compassion

What is compassion?

What is the definition of compassion, and how can you explain it to a child?

Compassion is the ability to understand and be sensitive to the suffering of others. It’s the feeling that one wants to alleviate another’s suffering, which can be experienced both emotionally and physically. 

Compassion is a quality that enables us to care and feel for others. It helps us understand the world from other people’s perspectives and see what they are going through.

The word compassion comes from Latin, meaning “co-suffering.” Compassion is defined as the feeling that you have when you are sad because someone else is suffering. However, compassion is not just about feeling sorry for someone, it’s about wanting to make their pain go away.

Compassion can be divided into two components: emotional and cognitive empathy. Emotional empathy refers to the ability to share in another person’s feelings, while cognitive empathy refers to the ability to understand another person’s thoughts or feelings (even though you may not personally have the same life experiences).

Basically, compassion is when you feel sorry for someone and you want to help them. Examples of compassion

Compassion is one of the characteristics of a happy person that we all have the capacity for.

Why is compassion important?

Never Unfriended is an awesome book to read if you have toxic relationships or want to avoid them.

Especially in today’s society, compassion is essential. 

The importance of compassion in society has been highlighted by many philosophers, psychiatrists, psychologists and spiritual leaders. They argue that compassion is necessary for our happiness as well as for society’s stability and progress. 

Compassionate people are more likely to show empathy, altruism, charity, cooperation, and other prosocial behaviors.

Simple examples for a child could be if you saw someone fall down and scrape their knee, you might feel compassion for them and want to help them.

Also, if you see someone who is homeless on the street, you might feel compassion for them because they don’t have a place to live. You might want to help them by giving them some money or food.

I’ve been fortunate to be able to see the good in people. Parents at my son’s preschool showed their overwhelming compassion for my child. Before sending in snacks or holiday treats, they would send recipes home with me to check that they didn’t contain any allergens. They went out of their way to read labels and find new, fun snacks to send for birthday parties.

Since sending my son to elementary school, I’ve come across several parents who would rather sacrifice the life of my child for the comfort of their own (and then post scathing comments online about smearing peanut proteins around the school so that my child builds up a tolerance – he won’t). 

Compassion can be simple to demonstrate, and it can go a long way in building relationships.

If you’re struggling to overcome friendship PTSD or want to know the characteristics of good and bad friends, the book Never Unfriended by Lisa-Jo Baker is an excellent book to help you overcome your friendship fears.

Good Friendship Characteristics, 10 Qualities of a Good Friend, and How to Have More Meaningful Friendships are also helpful posts to understand what you should look for and how you can improve your friendships, even as an adult.

Grab the Fabulous Friendship journal to evaluate your own friendship style:

How to show compassion and examples of a compassionate person

Compassion can be expressed in many ways, such as empathy, sympathy, encouragement, and enthusiasm. Doing an act of kindness or lending a helping hand can help you build positive relationships with others and improve their day-to-day experience.

What is the first step that we should take in order to be more compassionate to others?

Compassion is a skill that can be learned. It’s not something that is innate to humans. If you want to learn how to be more compassionate, there are many ways in which you can do so.

The first step in becoming more compassionate is understanding the perspective of others. 

The next step is practicing mindful self-compassion and being kinder to yourself. You also need to practice showing positive emotions and empathy, which will help you become more aware of your own feelings and those of others around you.

How to teach children to have compassion

Compassion is a hard lesson to teach. Most young children learn by seeing and doing tangible things. Compassion, on the other hand, is an abstract idea, which is difficult for kids to understand.

To teach children about compassion, a simple way for kids to learn is by doing acts of kindness. Also, modeling compassionate acts for your fellow human beings is an important component of teaching kids how to be compassionate.

I especially love the book Parenting with Love and Logic to teach kids important life lessons naturally.

Parenting with Love and Logic

For example, talking to your child about giving money or donating to less fortunate people may not be enough. If your kids see you donating to charity, or, better yet, volunteering at a soup kitchen, they may begin to understand the true meaning of compassion and how they can practice compassion in their own life.

How to be compassionate in a relationship

When it comes to relationships, compassion is key. It’s one of the first steps to “fighting fairly,” and it can be the difference between a healthy, fulfilling relationship and one that is filled with drama and resentment. 

So, how can you show compassion in your relationship? 

Compassion in a relationship, whether a romantic relationship, friendship, or work relationship, can go a long way.

In order to show compassion in a relationship, you need to first understand the needs of your partner. This can be achieved by listening to them and making them feel valued.

The Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction is an excellent book if you want to be a better listener (and feel heard in your own relationships, as well).

The Listening Life

It is important to understand their emotions, what they are going through, and what they want.

However, it’s especially important to listen without judgment (and without giving advice, unless the other person specifically asked for it).

One way is to always be understanding. If your partner is telling you about something that happened at work, or a problem they’re having, listen attentively and don’t interrupt. Let them finish speaking before you offer any input. This will show that you respect their opinion and that you care about what they have to say. 

Another way to be compassionate is by being supportive. If your partner is going through a tough time, offer words of encouragement and be there for them when they need you.

How to practice self-compassion, impart love and empathy as a daily practice, and reduce your own suffering

Self-compassion is one of the most important skills you can develop in your life. It involves being kind and understanding to yourself when you make a mistake or experience pain and suffering. Here are a few ways to practice self-compassion:

  1. Be gentle with yourself. When you make a mistake, don’t criticize or chastise yourself harshly. Recognize that everyone makes mistakes sometimes, so be forgiving and have a kind word ready to reduce your inner turmoil.
  2. Talk to yourself as if you would talk to a friend in need. When you’re feeling down or struggling through difficult situations, express compassion with words of encouragement and understanding. Let yourself know that it’s okay to feel negative emotions and that you will get through it.
  3. Focus on your own needs. Remember that we all have a hard time or experience pain, fear, and suffering at some point in our lives.

Self-compassionate people understand their common humanity, and they are able to reduce negative feelings and negative self-talk by their self-compassion practices. They practice mindfulness and focus on reflection in the present moment to overcome the challenges of life and have greater happiness even during a challenging time.

True Compassion

Feeling compassion for others and yourself is a lifelong process. It can be demonstrated in little doses or on a large-scale throughout your daily life.

We need to teach our children to be compassionate, but it’s important for us to model it, as well. Start by noticing (and asking) how others are feeling. Are they having a bad day? Is there something that you could do to help?

Sometimes compassion doesn’t have to be a big thing. It could be as small as packing a peanut-free lunch so that your child can sit next to his friend at the lunch table.

how to be compassionate

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Friday 18th of September 2015

There is a boy who has recently joined my son's school. He has DSS and is visible because of his lack of height. Before he joined the school, all of the parents were sent a letter to explain the boy's condition, and all of the boys in the school were given a talk on his condition; encouraging them not to stare but welcome him into the school community. The boy is a happy, intelligent young man and has settled very well, very quickly. It is such a shame your school community couldn't take the time to understand your son's food allergies.


Friday 18th of September 2015

That's so encouraging, Susan! I wish more schools (and parents) took a proactive approach like that. I'm glad to hear that the boy is doing well!

Irene Brankin

Thursday 17th of September 2015

Thank you for your touching blog which also contains so much truth. We need to be educated about things we're not familiar with and so then we are able to demonstrate our awareness. I don't think that compassion is the main issue as it's inside us regardless, although I do agree that, for some, it needs to be demonstrated. Thank you again. Irene


Thursday 17th of September 2015

Good point, Irene. I think if kids saw more demonstrations of compassion, they might be more likely to demonstrate it themselves.