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Compassion is a virtue. It is also a feeling or an emotion. It is something we either feel or don't feel. It can't be called up by Command1]

To have compassion means to suffer with or share in suffering. (Comte-Sponville, Page 103)

Having compassion means that one refuses to regard any suffering as a matter of indifference or any living thing as a thing.

Compassion is the sympathetic consciousness of another's sorrow, pain, or misery, together with the deep passion and desire to alleviate it.(Coloroso 2005, page 8)

Compassion is a feeling: as such we either do or we don't. However we can be taught to feel (Gordon 2005). Feelings are not destiny. We can and should nurture the capacity in us to feel it. This is what makes it a virtue. (Comte-Sponville, Page 116)

If we are to raise kids who can think and act ethically, we don't begin with the thinking or the acting. We begin with caring- caring for our children and nurturing their innate ability to care; helping them to see themselves as both lovable and loving. Such an ethic is primarily about relationships, not principles or virtues, or values. It is not that principles, virtues, and values have no purpose. They do. In an ethic rooted in deep caring, they are in service to and at the service of that caring.-Barbara Coloroso 2005.

Compassion is a biologically based emotion rooted deep in the mammalian brain, and shaped by perhaps the most potent selection pressures humans evoved to adapt to - the need to care for the vulnerable. Compassion is anything but blind; it is finely attuned to vulnerability. It is anything but weak; it is courageous, altruistic action often at significant cost to self. (Keltner 2009,228)


[1]Comte-Sponville (1996)page 116


Beauchamp, Tom L and James F. Childress (2001) Principles of Biomedical Ethics, 5th Edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press

Coloroso, Barbara (2005) Just because it's wrong doesn't make it right,Toronto: Penguin

Comte-Sponville, Andre (1996) A Small Treatise on the Great Virtues, New York: Henry Holt and Company

Connolly, Peter(1999)Approaches to the Study of Religion, London: Cassell

Gordon, Mary (2005) Roots of Empathy, Toronto: Thomas Allen Publisher

Keltner, Dacher (2009) Born to be Good, The Science of a Meaningful Life, New York: W.W. Norton & Company

Ladner, Lorne (2004) The Lost Art of Compassion, New York: HarperSanFrancisco