Being With

Being With

Guanyin (Bodhisattva of Compassion) by Thad Zajdowicz
Guanyin (Bodhisattva of Compassion) by Thad Zajdowicz

When we’re sitting with someone who’s struggling, there is a range of emotions that can come up. If we’ve had a similar experience, we may share something of what they’re experiencing too. And it can bring up unresolved feelings of our own.

That unresolved stuff can drive people away from being supportive.

Recently, I saw an article on the topic, listing a spectrum of response. I wanted to explore this further.

They were: pity, sympathy, empathy, & compassion.

Pity: a “kindly sorrow” evoked by the suffering, distress, or misfortune of another.
Pity has a quality of condescension. We view the suffering one as other and beneath us. Thus, pity doesn’t feel supportive unless we’re in a very bad way.

Sympathy: a feeling of understanding and care for someone else’s suffering or problems. Commiseration.
Though superior, it still includes an otherness. But we may feel supported by sympathy.

Empathy: the ability to identity with another’s situation or feelings.
Empathy arises when we’re relating to them and sharing something of the experience. There is a greater sense of togetherness. This is more helpful but requires someone who’s had a similar experience. It’s also useful to know some energy healing techniques to process the experience afterwards so we don’t take on the suffering. (Taking on another’s suffering doesn’t heal the source so is only marginally and briefly helpful.)

(Empathy is distinct from Empaths, those who have a more direct experience of others’ states.)

Compassion: suffering with another, accompanied by the wish to relieve it.
This comes from a higher place, a more universal feeling. It doesn’t require a shared experience, other than of suffering in general. This has a spiritual dimension and is often considered a virtue to culture. It feels the most supportive, although can be impersonal.

The person at the receiving end may appreciate any support. But they may also feel the difference between these styles. Our own experiences are often what motivate us into support roles. They create a desire to help others. How effective we are depends on where on this scale we respond from and our own emotional intelligence. For example, are we good listeners or do we try to fix them? Heart or mind?

Compassion is a rarer bird, in its true form. It requires an open and somewhat healed heart. Its universal form can arise when hridaya awakens, the higher octave heart.

However you can be of service is a blessing.

Average rating 4.9 / 5. Vote count: 11

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.


  1. Harrison

    Love the comments about “Hridaya Awakens” in the above article – I’ve been noticing this sense of being the unbounded force of Pure Love that is somehow beyond the subject/object dyad of personal love. And this does seem to be more enabled as old traumas and beliefs or impressions are seen healed and released spiritually and therapeutically or something beyond. Reading about Hridaya in your blog is helpful and humbling. The path we’re walking has been well trod for millennium.

    1. Hi Harrison
      When it fully comes online, it can be pretty spectacular. Your process may be a bit gentler but here, it was like a fire hose of love came online. I needed to find an object of devotion to direct it so I wasn’t throwing others off. It was intense. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest