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Moment Of Clarity

Pity or Compassion?

There’s been a lot of talk about compassion lately. Many feel that the world would be a better place if we simply had more of it. There is also “pity,” which is often mistaken for compassion. I thought I’d take a moment to share the difference between the two and how to effectively be compassionate.

Let’s begin with compassion and its meaning, “to suffer with.” Compassion is the willingness to suffer with someone else in his or her pain and help him move forward. In other words, compassion is active. (e.g. “Yes, it was horrible that he cheated on you. What would you like to do now and how can I help)?”

Compassion can be a tall order because in order for us to be compassionate towards others, we must be able to feel compassion towards ourselves. The ability to care for and love ourselves is the foundation on which compassion is built because we cannot give to another what we cannot give ourselves. We must have the ability to act on our own behalf as well as others.

Compassion is different from pity. While compassion is active, pity is passive. It has a “spectator-like” quality to it. For example, if you knew there were children in your community who were hungry and you felt badly, that would be pity. However, if you also committed to helping them secure healthy lunches at school everyday, you would be in the space of compassion. See the difference?

When it comes to compassion, there’s only one rule: one must not do all of the work for the individual we are trying to help. They must participate as fully as they are able to helping themselves.

There is a saying: “No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” This can be a slippery slope because there are those who feel a little help goes a long way while others believe they are responsible for saving everyone. I believe that we are all here to learn and grow from one another and will learn how to balance it all out in our own way.

As for pity, there are a few more rules:

1. Don’t be a spectator for too long. If you see a problem linger for a while or is persistent across environments, it’s time to think about how to become active.

2. If you can’t help someone, then at least don’t get in their way. Sometimes people who are unwilling to help another move forward are quick to stop them from trying. If you choose not to help create a viable solution, you have forfeited the privilege of interfering with the execution.

3. Don’t push them further into despair. Whatever you do, try to avoid being the chairman of the pity party. All that does is drive them further into their pain and makes it harder for them to come out of it stronger and wiser.

I hope this was helpful. As always, with love and light I wish you all pleasant journeys!

Jinnie Cristerna, LCSW

Do you have a question for our “Moment of Clarity” JET Therapist, Jinnie? Email us at digitalpitches@ebony.com. We’ll be sure to keep it anonymous and confidential. 

Jinnie Cristerna, affectionately known as “The High Achievers Therapist”, works with talented people to help them release emotional pain and psychological roadblocks so they can achieve their personal and professional goals. Specializing in psychotherapy, heart centered hypnotherapy, vibrational energy, meditation, and personality development.  Sign up for Jinnie’s High Achiever newsletter here or join her on Facebook and Twitter!