Thoughts on Compassion

Photo by Ryan Baker

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” Henri Nouwen


  • First: We notice someone is suffering.
  • Second: Feeling moved by their suffering so that our heart responds to their pain (the word compassion literally means to “suffer with”).
  • Third: Offer understanding and kindness to others when they fail or make mistakes, rather than judging them harshly.
  • Realize that suffering, failure, and imperfection is part of the shared human experience.

“Any skillful relationship of caregiving relies on balance – the balance between opening one’s heart endlessly and accepting the limits of what one can do. The balance between compassion and equanimity. Compassion is the trembling or the quivering of the heart in response to suffering. Equanimity is a spacious stillness that can accept things as they are. The balance of compassion and equanimity allows us to care, and yet not get overwhelmed and unable to cope because of that caring.” Sharon Salzberg

“Compassion is knowing your darkness well enough that you can sit in the dark with others. Compassion is always a relationship between equals. It is never a relationship between the wounded and the healed.” Pema Chodron

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