Last night in Tokyo with my Human Values Institute group we discussed in some detail the distinctions between empathy and compassion. I had just stepped off a 12+ hour flight, and spent about 20 hours transiting in Tokyo on my way back to India from the States. We included group members from Fukuoka and Kyoto virtually over conference call Zoom. There is an overlap between empathy and compassion when empathy (feeling like the other person is feeling) does not own or adopt the others’ pain. This is where empathy and compassion are quite similar. Compassion is generally more proactive concerned with how can I help relieve the others’ suffering. Empathy in generally is more passive, open and feeling the others’ pain. The important point to remember is to protect ourselves and not take on the others’ pain as our own. This prevents burnout and allows us the clarity and perspective to assess how best to help.
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