Emotional Competency

Explore the Logic of Passion

Kindness without Condition

You are touched and concerned by the suffering of another unfortunate person. You feel compassion and want to help relieve their pain. You want to see them safe and secure.


Pity, 1887
  1. Understating the suffering of another and wanting to help,
  2. Displeased about an event undesirable for another
  3. Relieving the suffering of others.
  4. To suffer with; I feel your pain.
  5. Kindness without condition.

Root: from com- together + pati to suffer.

Related Terms

Terms that are somewhat related, but not precise synonyms for compassion are: sympathy, pity, feeling sorry for, tenderness, charity, altruism, caring, and empathy.

Origins and Importance

Compassion encourages us to help the unfortunate. It motivates us to prevent harm to others. Our compassion continues until the unfortunate person is safe, or we can do nothing more to help them. Compassion strengthens the community. When we are compassionate we are following the golden rule.

We feel compassion when people suffer misfortune through no fault of their own. We feel contempt when we hold someone responsible for their own mishap.

We feel guilty when we fail to be compassionate.

Compassion and Power

Asymmetrical compassion says: “I'm well, you are suffering, I will help you”. The strong help the weak. While seemingly generous it is actually asymmetrical and paternal; the helper and the helped are no longer equals. This creates a power relationship where the suffering person becomes dependent on help from the stronger person. This establishes a hierarchy that perpetuates the power of the person who originally provided the help. It is the beginning of paternalism and can evolve into hegemony.

Symmetrical compassion says: “We are all human, we all suffer, we all offer help when we can, we accept help when we must”. We help each other. It treats us all as equals and is generous without establishing a power relationship. This is truly kindness without condition.


  • “To attain your own human potential, be mindful of everyone else's.” ~ Marc Ian Barasch
  • “He who would do good for another must do it in Minute Particulars. General Good is the plea of the scoundrel, hypocrite, and flatterer; For Art and Science cannot exist but in minutely organized Particulars.” ~ William Blake
  • “As long as our eyes are clouded by longing, needing other people to be this way or that for us, there's no such thing as compassion.”
  • “Sympathy sees and says ‘I'm sorry’. Compassion feels and whispers, ‘I'll help’”
  • “Compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all things.” ~ Thomas Merton


[laz] Passion and Reason: Making Sense of Our Emotions, by Richard S. Lazarus, Bernice N. Lazarus

[Ekm] Emotions Revealed: Recognizing Faces and Feelings to Improve Communication and Emotional Life, by Paul Ekman

[OCC] The Cognitive Structure of Emotions, by Andrew Ortony, Gerald L. Clore, Allan Collins

[Gol] Destructive Emotions: A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama, by Daniel Goleman

The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation, by Matt Ridley

Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill, by Matthieu Ricard

Field Notes on the Compassionate Life: A Search for the Soul of Kindness, by Marc Ian Barasch

Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life: Create Your Life, Your Relationships, and Your World in Harmony with Your Values, by Marshall B. Rosenberg, Arun Gandhi

Healing Emotions: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on Mindfulness, Emotions, and Health, by Daniel Goleman  

The Charter for Compassion

Fear, Sadness, Anger, Joy, Surprise, Disgust, Contempt, Anger, Envy, Jealousy, Fright, Anxiety, Guilt, Shame, Relief, Hope, Sadness, Depression, Happiness, Pride, Love, Gratitude, Compassion, Aesthetic Experience, Joy, Distress, Happy-for, Sorry-for, Resentment, Gloating, Pride, Shame, Admiration, Reproach, Love, Hate, Hope, Fear, Satisfaction, Relief, Fears-confirmed, Disappointment, Gratification, Gratitude, Anger, Remorse, power, dominance, stature, relationships

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