Compassion is defined as “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to relieve it” (The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2013). Compassion requires empathy, sympathy, sensitivity, non-judgment, a tolerance of distress, and a motivation to relieve suffering.
As Dewar (2011) further explains compassion is “…the way in which we relate to human beings. It can be nurtured and supported. It involves noticing another person’s vulnerability, experiencing an emotional reaction to this and acting in some way with them, in a way that is meaningful for people. It is defined by the people who give and receive it, and therefore interpersonal processes that capture what it means to people are an important element of its promotion.”
The benefits of compassion
Compassion can actually make us less vulnerable, increase and motivate our strength to act, and increase our resilience and sustainability.
When we demonstrate compassion to another person the hormone oxytocin is secreted from the pituitary gland, and this has a positive effect on our emotional, cognitive and social behaviours. Oxytocin improves our psychological stability, reduces our stress responses and enhances our trust.