My Love/Hate Relationship with Compassion (the word)

Before reading the definitions below, stop here and find your own definition of the word – Compassion. When I hear the word compassion, I feel my spine slump! It feels like such a cumbersome and overused word! Quite a bit lately I have been discussing the name of this model Returning to Compassion and asking out loud if a more fresh word attached to it would serve the model’s audience better.

Compassion is modernly defined as:






Even though I don’t love the word compassion, I still have difficulty letting it go in relationship to the polarity model. Here’s why: The word bridges children (Compass-ion) and adults (Come passion!) when it has been presented with a multitude of individuals and groups! Secondly, because the name itself -Returning to Compassion- is the summary of what the model is meant to help us do! Therefore, I decided to use the model’s process to explore redefining or refreshing the word “Compassion” and find a new way to understand why it is still a useful word. I took my feelings of irritation and confusion with the word (feeling helpless like a bystander) and found my curiosity! The attached TED Talk is by NPR’s journalist Kristina Tippett. What I love about how she describes the word compassion is that in many ways that the word in itself is a bridge (instead of a wall) to other words like sadness, regret, hardship, and kindness, curiosity, and trust.

When we say or remember the word Compassion, we are invited to soften our voice and heart and try to reconnect with whatever has caused us discomfort or pain. It’s not a perfect word (See above!), and it is definitely an overused word, but my reframe in the future is to notice how I use the word and how I say it out loud. Do I rush through it because it is a three-syllabic word in a world of GIFFS and 30 second sound bites? Or, do I say it almost as a question? Do I put doubt into the word as if I am unsure? Or, do I speak with word with more reverence, almost as if the word needs the one hearing me to reach back towards me. Maybe I can even sometimes say the word with a pause, which could allow those around me to feel it differently, to slow down, to even breathe for just a moment and catch up to where they are and why we are there.

Therefore, for the moment, unless you can come up with something better, Compassion is the appropriate word for this Model. Many times the model has been described as a bridge or a key to a new paradigm of awareness in relationship with “other.” I’m curious about your impressions of the word and what you have thought it means?



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