Difference Between Empathy and Compassion

Empathy vs Compassion

It is for sure that empathy and compassion are two words that are believed to give the same meaning. Strictly speaking they differ in their meaning. Although both empathy and compassion are two terms that indicate two kinds of feelings, they show some difference in the nature of feeling.

Compassion is a type of feeling where you tend to feel for the person concerned. You strongly feel sorry for the state of a person without attempting to know what is there in his or her mind. Without even understanding the intensity of his or her problem or predicament you simply feel sorry for a person.

Empathy on the other hand is a higher plane of emotive behavior. It involves some sort of imagination of the person’s predicament or problem coupled with strong feeling for him or her. Imagination of similar situations is the hallmark of empathy. Such an imagination lays the foundation for gaining empathy for someone.

You tend to share the feeling with someone in the case of empathy. On the other hand compassion does not involve sharing of feeling with someone. It is thus very important to know that in the case of empathy you would step into the shoes of the sufferer as far as experiencing the impact of the suffering is concerned. You become one with him after understanding his or her feelings.

On the other hand you do not step into the shoes of the sufferer when you show compassion to him or her. Without understanding his or her feeling you would simply feel sorry for him or her. This of course is the only and the main difference between empathy and compassion. This makes it easy for one to have compassion towards another than empathy. Empathy is a complex kind of feeling. It needs basic understanding of the emotional standards of human beings.

Compassion – sympathetic feeling towards another without attempting to know their feelings or even understanding the intensity of their sufferings

Empathy – trying to imagine another’s problem coupled with strong feeling for that person, understand his problem and share the feeling

  • http://www.facebook.com/edwin.rutsch Edwin Rutsch

    Here’s a further resources to learn more about empathy and compassion. The Center for Building a Culture of Empathy
    The Culture of Empathy website is the largest internet portal for resources and information about the values of empathy and compassion. It contains articles, conferences, definitions, experts, history, interviews, videos, science and much more about empathy and compassion.

    More definitions of empathy and compassion are here;

  • Julien Bachman

    Actually you got it backwards. Empathy is innate. Compassion is not. Compassion leads to action Empathy does not. You need to do further research on your statements. Empathy is lower state of emotion. Please, educate yourself before you start teaching others.

    • Shannon Skinner

      you are quite correct in your statement. I’m only replying as I had only thought I was the one that had that state of mind. It is a pity that these ‘blogs’ are posted when not a total understanding of what they are writing is apparent.

  • Brian

    When you write “this makes it easy for one to have compassion towards another than empathy” perhaps I don’t know what you mean by “easy” but this seems backward. It is easier to have sympathy for someone who you can identify with (i.e. you can step into their shoes) while having compassion for an individual even though you don’t know their situation is less easy. I think seeing a homeless person is a good example: many people withhold sympathy because they can’t empathize with someone who is an alcoholic or drug addict or whose background is just generally one of making bad choices; the harder thing to do is not concern yourself with the back story and whether you can empathize and simply have sympathy in the form of compassion just because they are homeless.

  • Shannon Skinner

    You know you really need to examine the definition of compassion. Earth-Bound-Misfit is absolutely correct. This is why it is used instead of empathy by the dalai lama. You make it sound like compassion is something unworthy and empathy is something divine. EarthBound is correct in saying that empathy is innate it only leads to an understanding and yet it is a deep emotion but it doesn’t lead anywhere. Compassion on the other hand puts a person equal to someone’s suffering no matter what it is ( and not trying to pry), and relates to ending emotion because the cause of the emotion has already happened so what is left? The healing process, that’s what compassion is about.