What Is the Difference Between Pity and Compassion?

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What Is the Difference Between Pity and Compassion?

Are pity for someone and compassion for someone the same thing? Short answer: no, they’re not.


I used to think that feeling sorry for someone meant you were demonstrating compassion, however, the emotional difference between pity and compassion is a powerful one, once we understand it, and learning how to shift into compassion is worth taking the time to retrain our reactive habits.


When we have pity for someone, we look at their life situation and we see their struggle, we see their pain, we see their poverty or hunger. But this isn’t only about people in destitute situations. Depending on the person, we might see they’ve lost a job and their affluent lifestyle is threatened, or they are facing a serious health challenge.


From the perspective of feeling sorry for someone or viewing them with pity, however well-meaning it might be, we are basically holding that person or group in a vibrational frame that says their situation is hopeless. It’s a  demonstration of sympathy, so it’s certainly a big step up from hating the other person, but I believe that mere pity keeps us separate from the other person.


This is the reason in books and movies and real life, too, we hear the angry reaction from someone in dire straits: “I don’t want your pity!”


Maybe it sounds like I’m putting too much emphasis on the difference between words that are shown as synonyms if you look in your handy online or hard copy of Roget’s Thesaurus.


But the way I see it, pity is like looking down upon someone from our superior position of not being in their shoes (and trying not to show how relieved we are that we are not). From the stance of pity, we pour largesse towards others:  advice; helpful suggestions; donations of money, food, clothing. 


Of course such donations are welcome and necessary, but I think the energetic vibration of our giving will be elevated when we shift away from pity and go higher up the emotional frequency scale to compassion.


Compassion is akin to looking at a person eye-to-eye and sharing love from one human to another. We are all in this together when we are compassionate. Indeed the Latin origin of the word means “to suffer with.”


Pity says: It makes me feel bad inside to see your situation and I’m sorry you’re going through such a hard time. It’s really awful to look at your life and I can’t imagine it happening to me.


Compassion says: I see you, and I see your challenge.  I have every faith that you can handle this situation. Let me know how I can help you. I love you.