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Compassion

  • ... it's compassion that makes gods of us.

  • Humanity is a natural foil for inhumanity, and humanity is what will ultimately keep us going when all else has failed.

  • The hardest thing we are asked to do in this world is to remain aware of suffering, suffering about which we can do nothing.

  • How far does one combine resistance to over-control with social justice, i.e. tolerable living for people in general? We are too selfish to be trusted, if left free, to give away enough to make people comfortable enough to give them a chance. Yet if all this is ordered for us, as to some extent it has to be, it so soon leads to tyranny. It is a very difficult problem. If only human beings had more pity, unselfishness, and justice and didn't need coercion to treat each other decently.

    • Rose Macaulay,
    • letter (1950), in Jane Emery, Rose Macaulay: A Writer's Life ()
  • The hand of benevolence is everywhere stretched out, searching into abuses, righting wrongs, alleviating distresses, and bringing to the knowledge and sympathies of the world the lowly, the oppressed, and the forgotten.

  • The same quickness which makes a mind buoyant in gladness often makes it gentlest and most sympathetic in sorrow.

  • O, ye who visit the distressed, do ye know that everything your money can buy, given with a cold, averted face, is not worth one honest tear shed in real sympathy?

  • Eyes that have never wept cannot comprehend sorrow.

  • It's impossible to get out of your own skin into somebody else's. ... Somebody else's tragedy is not your own.

  • ... imagination is the first faculty wanting in those that do harm to their kind ...

  • High trees cast long shadows. The happier and more blessed a woman's life is, the more duz she feel for them that are less blessed than she.

  • I value more than I despise / My tendency to sin, / Because it helps me sympathize / With all my tempted kin.

  • At times I am the mother of the world; / And mine seem all its sorrows, and its fears.

  • I am the voice of the voiceless; / Through me the dumb shall speak; / Till the deaf world's ear be made to hear / The cry of the wordless weak. / ... / And I am my brother's keeper, / And I will fight his fight, / And speak the word for beast and bird, / Till the world shall set things right.

  • Every being cries out in silence to be read differently. Do not be indifferent to these cries.

  • The love of our neighbor in all its fullness simply means being able to say to him: 'What are you going through?'

  • The feeding of those that are hungry is a form of contemplation.

  • Compassion directed to oneself is humility.

  • Justice consists in seeing that no harm is done to men. Whenever a man cries inwardly: 'Why am I being hurt?' harm is being done to him. He is often mistaken when he tries to define the harm, and why and by whom it is being inflicted on him. But the cry itself is infallible.

    • Simone Weil,
    • "Human Personality" (1943), The Simone Weil Reader ()
  • We do too little feel each others' pain; / We do relax too much the social chain / That binds us to each other; slight the care / There is for grief in which we have no share.

  • ... charity is a calm, severe duty; it must be intellectual, to be advantageous. It is a strange mistake that it should ever be considered a merit; its fulfillment is only what we owe to each other, and is a debt never paid to its full extent.

  • Literature can train, and exercise, our ability to weep for those who are not us or ours.

    • Susan Sontag,
    • "Literature Is Freedom," At the Same Time ()
  • Only when human sorrows are turned into a toy with glaring colors will baby people become interested — for a while at least. The people are a very fickle baby that must have new toys every day.

  • The power to console is not within corporeal reach — though its attempt is precious.

    • Emily Dickinson,
    • 1879, in Martha Dickinson Bianchi, ed., The Life and Letters of Emily Dickinson ()
  • If I can stop one Heart from breaking / I shall not live in vain / If I can ease one Life the Aching / Or cool one Pain / Or help one fainting Robin / Unto his Nest again / I shall not live in Vain.

    • Emily Dickinson,
    • c. 1864, in Thomas H. Johnson, ed., The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson ()
  • Unto a broken heart / No other one may go / Without the high prerogative / Itself hath suffered too.

    • Emily Dickinson,
    • in Thomas H. Johnson, ed., The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson ()
  • I never say to people, 'I am going to help you.' What I tell them is, 'I will work with you.'

    • Maria Rifo,
    • in Sherry Ruth Anderson and Patricia Hopkins, The Feminine Face of God ()
  • A writer's heart, a poet's heart, an artist's heart, a musician's heart is always breaking. It is through that broken window that we see the world; more mysterious, beloved, insane, and precious for the sparkling and jagged edges of the smaller enclosure we have escaped.

  • People sinking into self-pity and depression are dreary, but they can't get out of it by themselves. So every now and then, just sit there and listen, and listen, and listen. You're paying your membership dues in the human race.

  • How can one not speak about war, poverty, and inequality when people who suffer from these afflictions don't have a voice to speak?

    • Isabel Allende,
    • in Marie-Lise Gazarian-Gautiez, Interviews with Latin American Writers ()
  • But they tell us that even the little pigs grunt when the old boar suffers.

  • To read the hearts of those she loved — that was as easy to Fru Lagerlöf as reading a book ...

  • One of the advantages or disadvantages of the way in which we live in these modern days is that we are ceasing to feel. That is to say we do not permit ourselves to be affected by either death or misfortune, provided these natural calamities leave our own persons unscathed.

  • Unhurt people are not much good in the world.

  • ... in proportion as my own discomfort has increased, my conviction of necessity to search into the wants of the friendless and afflicted has deepened. If I am cold, they too are cold; if I am weary, they are distressed; if I am alone, they are abandoned.

    • Dorothea Dix,
    • 1845, in Dorothy Clarke Wilson, Stranger and Traveler: The Story of Dorothea Dix, American Reformer ()
  • The very basis of true peace of mind is a benevolent wish to see all the world as happy as one's self ...

  • ... there are times when sympathy is as necessary as the air we breathe.

    • Rose Pastor Stokes,
    • 1901, in Herbert Stokes and David L. Sterling, eds., "I Belong to the Working Class": The Unfinished Autobiography of Rose Pastor Stokes ()
  • They had souls large enough to feel the wrongs of others.

    • Elizabeth Cady Stanton,
    • in Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda J. Gage, eds., The History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 1 ()
  • Since suffering confers no rights on its victims, we who witness are the ones responsible for restoring these lost rights.

  • Compassion is the thing that leads you gently back to yourself.

  • The average reader can contemplate with considerable fortitude the sorrows and disappointments of someone else.

  • And his heart balanced between pity and the natural instinct for separation that divides the sound from the infirm.

  • No man can feel the iron which enters another man's soul.

  • Real charity and a real ability never to condemn — the one real virtue — is so often the result of a waking experience that gives a glimpse of what lies beneath things.

  • Don't look at the dying; / you'll only encourage them. / The homeless, the hungry, the hurting, / they're not really there / and it's not polite to stare. / ... / Pretty soon the cops'll clear them / all away / anyway, / and your eyes will be safe. / And when you're dying / (oh yes you will) / no one will look.

  • Everybody in the world ought to be sorry for everybody else. We all have our little private hell.

  • If I could wish for immortality on earth, it would only be for the power of relieving the distressed.

    • Maria Theresa,
    • in Mrs. Jameson, Memoirs of Celebrated Female Sovereigns ()
  • I've got 's much feelin' as the next one, but when folks drives in their spiggits and wants to draw a bucketful o' compassion every day right straight along, there does come times when it seems as if the bar'l was getting low.

  • Go where people sleep and see if they are safe.

  • ... the knowledge of personal failure ... is the invaluable predicate of all honest compassion.

  • Here and there the lantern of compassion / can be shown to the fish, / where the fishhook is swallowed / or suffocation practiced.

    • Nelly Sachs,
    • "Here and there the lantern of compassion," O the Chimneys ()
  • I was fifteen years old when I understood how it is that things break down: people can't imagine someone else's point of view.

  • How many people are in anguish at this very moment? Just try to think if you can of the indifference of the sane. ... We ought to be frightened out of our wits at our composure. The people who terrify me are those who don't become alcoholics and who don't end up in madhouses.

  • In its sentimental mode, compassion is an exercise in moral indignation, in feeling good rather than doing good ... In its unsentimental mode, compassion seeks above all to do good ...

  • Compassion is the most necessary ingredient in all relationships. Everything depends on it.

  • ... nothing is more important than empathy for another human being's suffering. Nothing. Not a career, not wealth, not intelligence, certainly not status. We have to feel for one another if we're going to survive with dignity.

    • Audrey Hepburn,
    • in Diana Maychick, Audrey Hepburn: An Intimate Portrait ()
  • ... no tragedy was ever comprehended that went from the mouth to the ear. It has to pass from the eye to the soul.

  • It is only the happy who are hard, Gilles. I think perhaps it is better for the world if — if one has a broken heart. One is quick to recognise it, elsewhere. And one has time to think about other people, if there is nothing left to hope for any more.

  • True compassion does not come from wanting to help out those less fortunate than ourselves but from realizing our kinship with all beings.

  • ... we come to realize that other people's welfare is just as important as our own. In helping them, we help ourselves. In helping ourselves, we help the world.

  • ... sentimentality is emotion without responsibility; compassion is the recognition of shared humanity.

  • It used to be regarded as a theological problem that God could be indifferent to the continuance of human suffering. What is really remarkable is that the human race can be.

  • It occurred to her that nobody really knew what anybody else was upset about, and that seemed like a terrible thing.

  • We do know that no one gets wise enough to really understand the heart of another, though it is the task of our life to try.

  • ... when we call someone needy, it really means that we don't have the time, the energy, the inclination, or the capacity to meet their need. We blame the need, or worse, the person with the need, instead of the lack of time, energy, inclination, or capacity.

  • The saddest thing in life and the hardest to live through is the knowledge that there is someone you love very much whom you cannot save from suffering.

  • True compassion is not forged at a distance from pain but in its fires.

  • The way we act toward 'others' is shaped by the way we imagine them. ... the human capacity to injure other people is very great precisely because our capacity to imagine other people is very small.

    • Elaine Scarry,
    • "The Difficulty of Imagining Other People," in Martha C. Nussbaum, For Love of Country: Debating the Limits of Patriotism ()