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Cultivate Compassion for a Better World and Better You

People all over the globe talk of a better and more compassionate world, whether from treating animals well, helping those in need, or taking care of the earth.

Compassion is a state of mind that could truly improve human existence, and from a personal level, can offer enhanced emotional well-being.

What is compassion?

Compassion is an emotional state that emerges when sensing the suffering of others. More specifically, it includes knowledge that someone/something is suffering, identifying with the sufferer, and connecting to how the other may be feeling.

It is a co-suffering of sorts, which prompts the desire to help the other and alleviate the distress.

A disconnect and loss of hope

Acting compassionately is easier said than done. It doesn’t necessarily come naturally to have compassion for those we don’t have an emotional bond to, or when we probably have much to personally worry about already.

Often, the problems of the world, or circumstances we find people in, can seem hopeless and unsolvable. It can feel much easier to put on our emotional armor and neglect the issue.

Not only that, but being truly compassionate might mean we have to put others needs before our own. This is difficult for anyone living in a faced paced, competitive, and capitalistic society.

Could the concept of individualism and autonomy, which pervades American culture, lead to less compassion?

“Us” vs. “Them” mentality

Much of the conflict in the world is instigated by an “us” vs. “them” mentality. It’s easy to justify the pain and suffering those others may endure when we perceive them as different and part of the “out” group.

These differences are very often overestimated, and regardless of socioeconomic status, gender, race, ethnicity, or religion, the overall similarities are much more prevalent than any differences.

By beginning to view life as interconnect and unified, instead of segmented and separate, it offers a chance to experience more positive well-being and more positive emotions toward others.

Connecting with others

One important aspect is how much we connect and identify with others. When we can connect with another person’s suffering through empathy we begin to feel compassion to help others.

For instance, if someone is helpless to change their circumstances people may feel more compassion. This is why children in troubled situations are viewed compassionately, or why animals garner compassionate protest.

It’s not their fault.

If we feel a person could have helped themselves, we may blame them for their own misfortunes. This can make it more difficult to experience empathy for their pain.

Experience empathy in three steps:

Recognizing:  Recognize how the other person is feeling. This means being able to identify the emotion they are experiencing and labeling it correctly.

Feeling: After recognizing the emotional state of the other person, empathy entails experiencing that emotional state and feeling how the other person might feel be feeling. Or in other words, try to understand their pain.

Acting:  This involves taking action to help the other person. Maybe they are feeling scared, depressed, angry, or in physical pain. Taking action to help them feel better and being considerate toward their situation is the staple of compassion.

We can all being to take a role in helping others in times of need, or feeling kindness and caring toward people when they experience pain. It may not be natural at first, but simply learning to connect with how others feel is a start, and soon you will be taking action to make the world a better place.

Cultivate Compassion for a Better World and Better You

Joe Wilner

Joe Wilner is a life coach, licensed clinical psychotherapist (LCP), and drummer from the band Yes You Are. He is also creator of You Have a Calling, a blog and online community helping people discover and pursue their life’s work and mission. Through deep and personalized coaching, he helps ambitious, creative, and spiritually minded individuals make a greater impact, grow as leaders, and design a soulful life they are inspired by.

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APA Reference
Wilner, J. (2011). Cultivate Compassion for a Better World and Better You. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 6, 2020, from


Last updated: 2 Feb 2011
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