Empathy is defined as having the capacity to have awareness of, or understand, what another may have experienced, thought, or felt. As a professional counselor, being empathetic to my clients – and now also my students – is an essential trait and skill I am continually working on enhancing. But I wonder, is empathy enough?
Hearing and witnessing another person’s struggles and trials is what is called for as a counselor. However, in the profession it calls for a bit more than just being empathetic. It is our desire to help others navigate those ups and downs in life that gets more to the heart of what we do. That desire to do something about another hurting taps into our compassion.
I think that compassion is our empathy for others put into action. I also think that compassion is a trait we all have and can strengthen it as a skill. The quote from Desmond Tutu, a South African cleric and theologian Nobel Prize winner, alerts us that should we be compassionate to be prepared for action. He further states that compassion is demanding. This is such a truth. Compassion is a call of action to our passion to help others.
“Compassion is not just feeling with someone, but seeking to change the situation. Frequently people think compassion and love are merely sentimental. No! They are very demanding. If you are going to be compassionate, be prepared for action!” ~ Desmond Tutu
I hope that we can all consider compassion over only our empathy. So many things in this world leave us battered and bruised, but compassion can help change things. Compassion for others, as well as compassion for ourselves. Be kind. Be compassionate. Consider what compassion is to you.