The Power of Compassion

Sympathy looks in and says, “I’m sorry.Sympathy looks in and says, "I'm sorry.
Compassion goes in and says, "I’m with you.

Sympathy look in and says, "I would like to help."
Compassion goes in and says, "I am here to help."

Sympathy says, "I wish I could carry your burden."
Compassion says "Cast your burden on me."

Sympathy often irritates with many words.
Compassion helps and hears in quietness and understanding.

-Author Unknown

Empathy refers to feeling what another person is feeling. Sympathy means you understand what the other person is feeling even without feeling it yourself. Compassion means your feelings have prompted you to take action to relieve the suffering of another person.

There is a story I have heard many times that illustrates the difference between sympathy and compassion and demonstrates the critical effect the act of compassion can make in another person's life.

It seems that a young man, named Mark, was walking home from school one day when he noticed that a boy ahead of him had tripped and dropped all of the books he was carrying, along with two sweaters, a baseball bat, a glove, and a small tape recorder.

Sympathy looks in and says, “I’m sorry.Mark knelt and helped the boy pick up the scattered articles. Since they were going the same way, he helped the boy carry part of the burden. As they walked, he discovered the boy’s name was Bill, that he loved video games, baseball, history, and that he was having lots of trouble with his other subjects.

They arrived at Bill’s home first, and Mark was invited in for a Coke and to watch some television. The afternoon passed pleasantly with a few laughs and some shared small talk; then Mark went home.

They continued to see each other around school, had lunch together once in a while, then both graduated from junior high school. They ended up in the same high school where they had brief contacts over the years. Finally, the long-awaited senior year came, and three weeks before graduation, Bill asked Mark if they could talk.

Bill reminded him of the day years ago when they had first met. “Did you ever wonder why I was carrying so many things home that day?” asked Bill. “You see, I cleaned out my locker because I didn’t want to leave a mess for anyone else. I had stored away some of my mother’s sleeping pills, and I was going home to commit suicide. But after we spent time together talking and laughing, I realized that I didn’t want to die. I would have missed that time with you and so many other good times in my life that followed. What I am trying to say, Mark, is when you picked up those books that day, you did a lot more. You saved my life.”

Compassion is something you can develop with practice.  It involves two thing:  intention and action. Intention is simply opening your heart to others and action is what you do about it.

Mark made a decision to open his heart to another person in need.  Once he did that he made a decision to help that person.

It was a small gesture and only took a few moments for all that to happen but that is how compassion works. As Mother Teresa reminds us, “We cannot do great things of this earth.  We can only do small things with great love.”

Imagine what would have happened if Mark had only shaken his head in sympathy and walked on. We never know what a difference we can make in someone's life when we show compassion.


Author's Image
Deana Landers
Author for Morningcoffeebeans.com

I have had many roles in life
Pastor’s Wife , Mom/Nana , Nurse/Health Educator, Writer , Christian Speaker
I can't remember a time when I wasn't writing stories, either in my head or in my journal.

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