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Compassion Definition(s) with Inspiration from Chris Germer

I recently updated the compassion entry in the glossary section of the website—nothing fancy—but I realized it needed some attention. A common definition of compassion is “being moved by the suffering of oneself and others, and being motivated to reduce that suffering”. Compassion involves sensitivity to suffering, as well as a motivation to reduce it.

One of the changes I made to the glossary entry was to include this beautiful, colloquial way Chris Germer described compassion in a touching article he wrote titled, When Moment-to-Moment Awareness Isn’t Enough. (The article was originally published in Psychotherapy Networker, 2015 and is currently available on his website here). Chris wrote

When love meets suffering and stays loving, that’s compassion. —Chris Germer

I find this description so helpful including when thinking about self-compassion: when you can meet yourself in your suffering and stay loving toward you, toward all the different parts of you, and stay caring; when you can stay connected to an orientation and motivation of care toward your own being, no matter what is presenting itself, no matter what is there; when you can stay in friendship with yourself…. that’s compassion.

This way of orienting can be incredibly challenging at times. But it is something we can plant seeds for, and practice (water), nourish, and grow. At the end of the day, all we can do really is either try or not try; try again or not try again. I believe (and research suggests*) that the trying is worth it, and trying again and trying again.

When love meets suffering and offers something loving, even just for a moment, and then, maybe, for another, that’s trying, that’s planting the seeds, and that’s compassion.



*For examples of research, view Dr. Kristin Neff’s fabulous compilation of research studies here.


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