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Empathy vs Compassion

Added on March 2, 2014

compassion quoteEmpathy is the capacity to recognise emotions that are being felt by another. Humans have a great capacity for empathy, but science has now shown that other animals may also exhibit empathetic behaviours. Click here to see a video about empathy in elephants.


But what is the difference between empathy and compassion. The word “compassion” comes from the Latin “com” meaning together and “passion” meaning suffering. So compassion is to suffer together. Or more accurately compassion is the capacity to empathise with another’s suffering coupled with the desire to alleviate that suffering.


For example, the sight of a homeless person may make you feel sad for him. This is empathy .  But a compassionate reaction would be to start thinking how you could minimise his suffering, like leaving him a warm blanket or a cup of coffee and a sandwich.

Homeless and cold


Compassion is without judgment. It doesn’t consider whether the person “deserves” your help. It is sincere and heartfelt, and connects you with the very essence of the other’s humanity.


So what would a compassionate world look like? How can you contribute to increasing the world’s compassion each day? We each have a role to play.

About Judith Lissing

Judith Lissing is a Clinical Hypnotherapist and Wellness Coach, with 15 years experience in teaching stress management and meditation. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree with Honours in Immunology and a Masters degree in Public Health, both from the University of NSW. She is also an Associate Lecturer in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of NSW since 1999. Judith is trained in Wellness Coaching with Wellcoaches U.S. and holds a Diploma in Hypnotherapy. Prior to coaching professionally, Judith held a statewide management role with NSW Health working with all levels of staff across the health sector.

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