When we are talking about compassion and enabling and which is what it is useful to look at what the definitions of compassion are.  This is an article I wrote last year.  Though it is spiritual in nature I thought in light of today’s reading that I would share it here.  It is what I have learned about compassion (other than feeling great deals of it sometimes).

How do you view compassion?

These are my thoughts…


Image by agelakis via Flickr

Compassion is key part of spirituality. What is compassion and what is not compassion? What is a compassionate act and what is not? These are questions that come up probably on a day to day basis for most of us. Starting in our home. Do we have compassion for those closest to us?

Compassion does not mean doing for someone else what they can do for themselves. Sometimes the only way and best kind of compassion or “mercy” we can show another is to refrain from injuring them further.

The definition of compassion is in English : “a feeling of deep sympathy or sorrow for another who is stricken with misfortune, accompanied by the strong desire to alleviate the suffering.” The oxford dictionary goes on to include the word pity. The word compassion in the English language leaves much to be desired. The word pity is not one that many of us say and have a good feeling about. Pity is not something we desire, nor is it something that feels good (by English definition) to do.

I have often found it useful to look to older languages to describe words that do not seem to be adequately full in their definition in the English language. In looking to Hebrew and Greek where the English has interpreted the word Compassion from the Bible there are in actuality several different words used for the term that we as English speakers have condensed into one word.

The Hebrew words that have been transferred to English as compassion in the Biblical sense mean something slightly different. Those words mean to show mercy in most of the Old Testament readings. There is a Greek word translated to English as compassion from the New Testament where it means to be moved in the gut and that is in regards to it causing an emotion of feeling that moves us to do something…..

Excerpt from: ©Spirituality Think About It  “Compassion” 2011, used with permission

If you get a minute today ponder the meaning of compassion.  True compassion, showing mercy and refusing to do further harm.  The “desire” to do something to alleviate discomfort or pain is not the act of doing that.  Do we do harm when we do for others what they can do themselves?  Do we do further harm when we take away natural consequences and avenues to learn when we clean up a mess for another human being?  Is that truly a compassionate act?  I don’t believe so. Share your thoughts!  ~Adrienne


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About Adrienne McLeod

I am Canadian born, for those of you needing clarification. I was raised in Minnesota, The Land of 10,000 Lakes, Multiple Musical Geniuses,Lake Wobegon, and really really cold winters. I now reside in rural Ontario, Canada with my husband and four beautiful children. I love to write, ponder and give back what I have learned in my journey with the hope that it will benefit others!


  1. Samantha

    Wow! I was just struggling yesterday to do something that I was considering “compassionate” when the real word to describe this action would be “enabling.”
    Luckily, I stopped and Thought, and decided I should sleep on it. Lo and behold, this post was sitting in my email when I woke up. My Higher Power is brilliant, knowing that I check my emails before I even drink any coffee!

    I have been struggling with the difference between “acceptance” and “hope.” If it truly

    • Samantha

      Accept that my alcoholic husband is an alcoholic, and that only he has control to change himself, how can I also be hopeful? Does true acceptance mean giving up hope?

      Today, I will study the definitions and “hope” to find some answers. Have a great day!

      • That happens a lot with readings for me… I can be struggling with something – anything- and the answers always come or I’m lead to seek out some information… When that begins to happen, gratitude and seeing all the little miracles in life seems to come more easily too… :)

      • And no, acceptance doesn’t mean giving up hope…for me in my experience it means I carry the hope for my HP’s will for me and for those I love…changing what I can change and accepting what I can not change and accepting the wisdom to know the difference …

  2. Really like the post and comments. For me, compassion means acceptance of and identification with the pain and brokenness of others. It helps me to be humble and aware of my own shortcomings and to meet people where they are in order to give them what they need as provided through me my God. Thus, I get to help people in compassion – according to God’s will, and I get a different perspective on my own work to do.

    In terms of acceptance versus hope, I think it’s like living in the day/moment versus increasing my availability to tomorrow. I accept people (incl me) where we are today. And I hope for peace, sobriety, growth, etc. tomorrow (or in five minutes, since one of my shortcomings is impatience). I think hope also clarifies our vision of an ideal world, or at least a better one. Rooted in acceptance, led by hope, we have the opportunity to work our program and plan to move in the direction of our hopes.

    Grateful for your voice here Adrienne.



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