What Is Compassion, Difference between Empathy, Sympathy, and Compassion?

Darryl Bachmeier
Mar 22, 2020

Compassion, Empathy and Sympathy. Woman comforts another by clasping hands.

Compassion, empathy, or sympathy are like close cousins. The three of them do carry different meanings but are very much related to each other, and this is the reason why people use these words for the same purpose. These three can be defined as the stages. The first stage is sympathy, which means to understand the problem/suffering, the second one is the empathy it means to be able to feel the pain, and the last one is compassion, which says, having enough courage to provide the solution.

What is compassion?

Compassion refers to the ability to feel the pain of the other. The person who feel compassionate for someone he not only feels the suffering of another person is going through but also provides the remedy through which he could get rid of such pain. Often, compassion is confused with that of empathy, but both of them carry a different meaning.

Empathy just means to feel the pain; on the other hand, compassion means to provide with the solution also to the person who is suffering. Scientists have found out biological basis that why people feel compassionate towards somebody and the reason that you only feel compassionate for the person when you are deeply connected to them, or you feel the same pain. During this situation, the person who is being compassionate his heart rate goes down, and they secrete bonding hormone, also known as oxytocin.

Difference between Empathy, Sympathy, and Compassion?


Empathy refers to the state to step into the shoes of another person. It means understanding the situation of the other person. Empathy is a very general characteristic, which every individual possesses, but it differentiates from person to person depending upon his or her upbringing and experiences.

For example: - some people are able to understand the pain of another person, but some do not. It is due to their own experiences. However, an important skill has to be learned to bring ease in relationships and in life as well.


Sympathy means that you can understand the situation from which another person is going through. Being sympathetic means displaying that you care about the person, making them comfortable that problem is not that big enough and they would be able to cope up with the problem over some time.

You might not be ending up feeling or being compassionate about everybody, but we do feel sympathetic for every person whose problem seems serious to us. For example, when we see beggars, we understand the problem, and we do feel sad about it, as we pass by, but as and when we get on to another road, everything gets back normal.

Difference between empathy and sympathy

There is a very hairline difference between being sympathetic and being empathetic; the first one means that being able to provide support to another person. For example: - if your friend had the breakup, you would support him, listen to him, but you won`t be able to suffer from the pain they are suffering.

You may call them to make them feel that you care. On the other hand, being empathetic means that they you so concerned that instead of just sending text messages and calls. You want them to come out of the situation, and you will stay by them until they completely get rid of this pain.

Difference between empathy and compassion

The person who has not felt the stage of empathy cannot go through the stage of compassion. As mentioned above, that empathy means that you just do not understand the problem, but you are also feeling the pain of the other person. However, being compassionate demands more. It means that you are not just able to understand and feel the pain, but you want to provide the solution also to the person.

You have felt the pain of the other person, and it has as that pain is not another persons pain, but its your pain. Thence, here in this situation, you will be investing your time and energy to solve the problem, no matter how difficult or worse the problem is. When you are compassionate, you are not running away from the problem, or you are not just showing that you are concerned.


From the above explanation, the difference between the three of them must be clear, and now you won`t make a mistake using them interchangeably. In this information age, when people have got so much busy with their own life. You cannot expect the person to be compassionate about you, but if you want to differentiate amongst the masses, and then you should be compassionate.

It is not expected nor suggested that you should be compassionate about every other person who passes away from your side, but at least those who are compassionate towards you, you should be compassionate towards them and, most importantly, towards your family.

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