On Compassion

The word “compassion” means to “suffer with” someone, with the sense of coming to the person’s aid. It is an emotion in us caused by some evil or dire condition seen in someone else.

The Good Samaritan is a memorable example. (Luke, 10:25-37) The word “pity” means a feeling of sadness or fear at the unavoidable lot of another, either deserved or undeserved…


But notions of compassion, sympathy, sincerity, mercy, and pity need to be watched very closely.

They arise more from emotion than from thought. Each of these related concepts refers to a feeling inside of us. It is caused by our being confronted with the dire (or happy) situation of another. But we do not fully penetrate to the soul of the other for whom we have compassion. No one wants a cold heart. In Matthew (9:36), Christ has “compassion” on the multitudes who are like lost sheep. Luke speaks of “the tender compassion of our God.” (1:78)

“Compassion” by William-Adolphe Bouguereau
James V. Schall, S.J.