Many different interpretations of the word compassion exist. It involves an emphatic distress for the suffering of others accompanied with a wish to help them. Literally it means: “to suffer together”. Compassion is strongly related to empathy and altruism but it is not the same: compassion is taking the perspective of others with the strong desire to help.
The MIND Conference tries to map out different interpretations of compassion: is it religious? is it spiritual? Is it, as cynics would say “touchy-feely” and “irrational”? Scroll through the information offered on this page to get a feeling of the research that has currently been done to get an understanding of this complex human quality. Also find out some more of the spiritual wisdom offered by many traditions. Science and spirituality do not have to oppose each other; they work on different levels and provide us with both emotional and intellectual knowledge.
“Compassion and the Golden Rule are, in a certain sense, built into human nature. .. But just affirming compassion, just affirming the Golden Rule is really not enough. There is a lot to be done after that. … From a biologist’s point of view, compassion is actually a gene’s way of helping itself.”
“If there’s one thing I can encourage everyone to do, politicians, religious leaders, and us, it would be what I call “expanding the moral imagination” – that is to say, your ability to put yourself in the shoes of people in very different circumstances. This is not the same as compassion, but it’s conducive to compassion. It opens the channels for compassion. And I’m afraid we have another good news/bad news story, which is that the moral imagination is part of human nature.”
Robert Wright – The Evolution of Compassion (TEDSalon 2009)
We wanted to know what compassion means to people. So our team members Vera and Xinyi (who is also a photographer at Humans of Utrecht) have been going to the streets of Utrecht to ask people they meet about compassion – what it means to them personally, what feeling or situations they connect with it or when they have last felt compassion. Read these honest stories here.
Nordin: “It’s the small moments that matter. It’s when I bike, make eye contact and
get a smile back. It’s special, it’s precious, it’s a connection. I try to look for compassion in that way. Sometimes it is there,
sometimes it is not.”
“Some time ago I helped a friend of mine. I got him off the streets, washed him and helped him. The next day he was back at
the bus stop again. Instead of making a judgement or becoming angry, I set down with him and listened. That is what
compassion means to me!”
Everyone has a story.
What is your story?
© 2015 Charlotte Kropholler