They're going through the book of Matthew, and tonight the primary topic of study was compassion. My mom, being an English teacher, brought up the question of what the true definition of compassion is. This also started a discussion on compassion versus sympathy and empathy. I like words, so I looked into these definitions and concepts a little more in detail.
Noun: The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Noun: Feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else's misfortune.
Noun: Sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others
So basically, empathy is understanding someone's situation. If you have a grandparent with cancer, I can empathize with you because my Pawpaw has cancer.
Sympathy is feeling sorry for someone. If your parents are going through a divorce, I can feel sympathy
for your situation, but I can't truly understand because that's never happened to me.
Compassion seems way harder to pinpoint to me. The definition is also identical to that of sympathy. I feel like compassion is a feeling that is much harder to feel and therefore grasp. God feels compassion for us, but it is not sympathy, it is empathy. God understand completely everything that life throws at us. The bible uses the word compassion specifically.
When searching compassion, I was often redirected to the idea of Jesus as our shepherd. He has compassion on all of His sheep, including those that are lost and ran astray.
I can conclude biblically from this that God is compassionate to all, regardless of any outside factors. As the children's song says, "Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world."
Jesus is compassionate, therefore we should be compassionate. Exactly what this means, I'm not exactly sure, but I do know I need to work on compassion towards others. We all do.
"When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things." -Mark 6:34