closeup picture of an eye reflecting the image of a suffering child

Compassion is sympathetic care and concern for the welfare of others, and especially for the suffering of others. Compassion goes beyond empathy or sympathy, to wanting to relieve the suffering of another. All are united by the root word “pathos” or “passion.” The literal meaning of compassion is “to suffer together” or “to feel together.” We can also feel (or fail to feel) self-compassion.

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How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because some day in life you will have been all of these.

— George Washington Carver

Caring about others, running the risk of feeling, and leaving an impact on people, brings happiness.

— Harold Kushner

I know wherein our most basic value judgments are rooted — in compassion, in our sense of the suffering of others.

— Herbert Marcuse

To bow to the fact of our life’s sorrows and betrayals is to accept them; and from this deep gesture we discover that all life is workable. As we learn to bow, we discover that the heart holds more freedom and compassion than we could imagine.

— Jack Kornfield

If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.

— Jack Kornfield

There appears to be a vast amount of confusion on this point, but I do not know many Negroes who are eager to be “accepted” by white people, still less to be loved by them; they, the blacks, simply don’t wish to be beaten over the head by the whites every instant of our brief passage on this planet. White people in this country will have quite enough to do in learning how to accept and love themselves and each other, and when they have achieved this — which will not be tomorrow and will not be today and may very well be never — the Negro problem will no longer exist, for it will no longer be needed.

— James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

But let us not forget that human love and compassion are equally deeply rooted in our primate heritage, and in this sphere too our sensibilities are of a higher order of magnitude than those of chimpanzees.

— Jane Goodall

It’s time for us to turn to each other, not on each other.

— Jesse Jackson

The only way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive.

— John Green

There is no question for which compassion is not the answer.

— Judith Hanson Lasater

If it is not tempered by compassion, and empathy, reason can lead men and women into a moral void.

— Karen Armstrong, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life

When we give ourselves compassion, we are opening our hearts in a way that can transform our lives.

— Kristin Neff

Our lack of compassion stems from our inability to see deeply into the nature of things.

— Lama Surya Das

Nobody wants to fall into a safety net, because it means the structure in which they’ve been living is in a state of collapse and they have no choice but to tumble downwards. However, it beats the alternative.

— Lemony Snicket

We frail humans are at one time capable of the greatest good and, at the same time, capable of the greatest evil. Change will only come about when each of us takes up the daily struggle ourselves to be more forgiving, compassionate, loving, and above all joyful in the knowledge that, by some miracle of grace, we can change as those around us can change too.

— Mairead Maguire

[A]ll change, even very large and powerful change, begins when a few people start talking with one another about something they care about.

— Margaret J. Wheatley

I look forward confidently to the day when all who work for a living will be one with no thought to their separateness as Negroes, Jews, Italians or any other distinctions. This will be the day when we bring into full realization the American dream — a dream yet unfulfilled. A dream of equality of opportunity, of privilege and property widely distributed; a dream of a land where men will not take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few; a dream of a land where men will not argue that the color of a man’s skin determines the content of his character; a dream of a nation where all our gifts and resources are held not for ourselves alone, but as instruments of service for the rest of humanity; the dream of a country where every man will respect the dignity and worth of the human personality.

— Martin Luther King Jr.

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.

— Maya Angelou

If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded.

— Maya Angelou

We need to build millions of little moments of caring on an individual level. Indeed, as talk of a politics of meaning becomes more widespread, many people will feel it easier to publicly acknowledge their own spiritual and ethical aspirations and will allow themselves to give more space to their highest vision in their personal interactions with others. A politics of meaning is as much about these millions of small acts as it is about any larger change. The two necessarily go hand in hand.

— Michael Lerner

It is easy enough to be friendly to one’s friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business.

— Mohandas K. Gandhi

We do not need guns and bombs to bring peace, we need love and compassion.

— Mother Teresa

For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.

— Neil deGrasse Tyson

Relational trust is built on movements of the human heart such as empathy, commitment, compassion, patience, and the capacity to forgive.

— Parker J. Palmer

When the heart is supple, it can be “broken open” into a greater capacity to hold our own and the world’s pain: it happens every day. When we hold our suffering in a way that opens us to greater compassion, heartbreak becomes a source of healing, deepening our empathy for others who suffer and extending our ability to reach out to them.

— Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit

Impermanence becomes vivid in the present moment; so do compassion and wonder and courage.

— Pema Chödrön

We have to realize that part of helping is keeping our clarity of mind, keeping our hearts and our minds open.

— Pema Chödrön

When we meet with an open-ended question that has no conceptual answer, we also encounter our heart.

— Pema Chödrön

Without a rich heart, wealth is an ugly beggar.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

No matter how you seem to fatten on a crime, there can never be good for the bee which is bad for the hive.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson
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