Pondering the Difference between Empathy and Compassion
I recently listened to an interview with Jack Kornfield, a well-known meditation teacher, and he elaborated an interesting distinction between empathy and compassion. He said that while empathy allows us to feel each other's emotions, compassion triggers us to act on our empathy; not from a place of pity or egocentrism (to make us feel good about ourselves), but on the basis of shared humanity (we're a global family and all in this together).
I have always been a bit sensitive to the pain/anger/frustration of others, and my response has usually been an attempt at compassion, but laced with pity and/or the assumption that I can and must solve the problem at hand (ego). How would it look like for me to act compassionately based on Jack's definition? What would it look like if we treated everyone as our immediate family, offering the same level of support we would offer our partner, parents, siblings, and etcetera? How can you create space for your beloved to feel and process what he/she is going through and decide for him/herself what's needed for healing? Sometimes a hug, ear to listen, or a word of empathy is the most compassionate thing. Imagine if we could all make compassion our new way of living.