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 looks 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 have 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 watched 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 many other good times in my life that followed. I am trying to say, Mark, that you did a lot more when you picked up those books that day. You saved my life.”

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

Mark decided to open his heart to another person in need.  Once he did that, he decided 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 on 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

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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Story Comments

  1. hey, that's truly a great story. I can relate to it. At times, it was compassion that pushed me through hard times.

    • Deana Landers -

      Thank you. I'm glad that compassion helped you get through hard times. We all need compassion for ourselves and others.Deana

  2. Capttrajkumar -

    Very glad to read Thank you .Compassion has been and now even more is the need of this time to Reach Out and assist in some way Rgds CaptTR Retd Mariner

    • Deana Landers -

      Thank you for reading and commenting on my story.Deana

  3. Chitra -

    Dear Deana , I write this from India. Maybe I am far away but ur stories make u very close to me. U had mentioned the book Don't sweat... Book in one of ur stories. I read it. I loved it. So I place a humble request please do keep referring such books. It's very helpful. Thanks. God bless you.

    • Deana Landers -

      Chitra, I am so glad to hear from you again. Thank you for reading my stories and writing to me. I look forward to your next note.Sincerely,Deana

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