Is Webster Wrong? Is Pity Compassion?
Webster is not someone you want to argue with about what a word means. A person would have to either have an over inflated ego or an unrealistically grandiose idea of their own intelligence to argue with the dictionary.
However, I did stumble when I happened to read Webster saying that pity is sorrow over the misfortune of someone else. But Is it? Isn’t sorrow over someone else’s misfortune something that someone with compassion would feel?
Everyone who is typical likes to receive compassion. If compassion is like pity then, why is it that people do not want to be pitied?
Pity is a Spectator Sport
The attitude of most people toward beggars and the homeless is a typical example of pity. In other words, pitying someone can be done from a safe distance. Pity is more spectator-like than compassion; we can pity people while maintaining a safe emotional distance from them. Pity also involves the belief in the inferiority of the pitied. Compassion assumes equality in common humanity.
Pity and compassion are not generated in every case of bad luck, but only when we believe that someone suffers from a sizable misfortune. Pity and compassion are like opposite sides of the same coin.
Compassion Gets Involved
A crucial difference between pity and compassion is that compassion involves far greater commitment for offering substantial help. Compassion involves willingness to become personally involved, while pity usually does not. When pitying someone, we may tell ourselves that we can not offer substantial help or that we are not obligated.
When we feel compassion, we don’t think of excuses or reasons to avoid helping. We help without thinking of reasons we should or should not become involved. Whether it’s easy or difficult, when we are compassionate, we just help.
Al Foxx is an Inspirational Humorist and Keynote Speaker.
Contact him for your next event, he will bring humor and inspiration or diversity training to your audience.