Difference Between Pity and Compassion

Key Difference – Pity vs Compassion
 

Pity and compassion are strong feelings we experience whenever we see the suffering or misfortune. Although many people assume that there is no difference between pity and compassion, there is a subtle difference between them. Pity only refers to the strong feeling of sorrow and sympathy whereas compassion refers to the awareness and understanding of someone’s suffering as well as the desire to help them. This is the key difference between pity and compassion.

What is Pity?

Pity is a strong feeling of sorrow and sympathy for someone. This feeling is aroused by seeing the misfortune or suffering of another. Pity is a benign feeling. However, in modern usage, the term pity can have unsympathetic connotations of feelings of superiority or condescension. This is because pity is usually a feeling of sadness and sympathy; it doesn’t actually denote the desire to help someone in need. Pity can also make you see helpless or troubled people as victims, which in turn results in you looking at them condescendingly. Moreover, when you pity someone, you only feel sorry for someone, you may not try to understand that person’s problems.

Key Difference -  Pity vs  Compassion

What is Compassion?

Compassion is a deep awareness of the suffering of another which is accompanied by the desire to help or relieve someone from the suffering. For example, if you see someone sick and want to help that person to get better, that feeling can be described as compassion. This wish or desire to help those in need is the main difference between pity and compassion. When you feel compassion towards others, you won’t see them as helpless victims; instead, you’d see them as mere individuals who are in trouble.

Difference Between Pity and Compassion

What is the difference between Pity and Compassion?

Definition:

Pity is a strong feeling of sorrow and sympathy aroused by the misfortunes or sufferings of another.

Compassion is a deep awareness of the suffering of another which is accompanied by the desire to help or relieve someone from the suffering.

Desire to Help Others:

Pity is often not accompanied by the desire to help others.

Compassion is accompanied by a genuine desire to help those in need.

Perspective:

Pity may make you see the person in trouble merely as a helpless victim.

Compassion doesn’t make you see the person trouble as a victim; you’d see that person simply as a person in need.

Connotations:

Pity may be associated with negative connotations such as condescension and superiority.

Compassion is not associated with any negative connotations.

Image Courtesy:

“Acharya Shri Chandanaji – Compassion” By Anupriya19 at English Wikipedia (CC BY 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia

“Sad Man And Rain” (Public Domain) via Public Domain Pictures