In humane education and changemaker circles we talk a lot about empathy and compassion.
Some people use them interchangeably, but in a great HEART blog post by IHE graduate Kristina Hulvershorn, she explains the importance of teaching others to not just connect to how others might feel (empathy), but to also take positive action (compassion). She says:
“… to explain the concept of compassion to my students, I start by asking, “What if your little brother (or cousin, friend, etc.) were stuck under the bed? If you walked by and said, ‘that has happened to me before…you must feel scared’ then went about your business, you might be displaying empathy, but little else. That feeling, though kind, didn’t do anything to help your brother. If, however, you notice him stuck under the bed, realize that he must be scared and hurt and try to help him get out, you have now displayed compassion. Compassion, I explain, is ‘an awareness of another’s’ suffering and a willingness to help address it.’
This concept, taken into the realm of humane education, has tremendous implications. I, personally, want to live in a world where our beliefs are tied to meaningful action. I want to know that if I am in trouble, someone will not only feel my pain but act to help alleviate it.”