Compassion And Sympathy Are Not The Same

Christmas is upon us and as the minions of Leviathan try to crush what is left of our joy in the celebration of the birth of Christ, I’ve been thinking a lot about the human condition. Please allow me pose a theoretical regarding morality, compassion and sympathy, to wit:

Two people witness a poor person on the street.

The first takes a personal interest in the individual, stops and talks to them, maybe takes them to their church and gets them warm clothes and finds a way get them aid through a charity – maybe even a charity that they donate to. They offer Christian charity – the church reaches out to the poor individual, providing meals and financial support to the person until they can get back on their feet – the individual and their church minister to the poor person’s spirit through faith and grace, helping them to heal from the inside out. This person keeps tabs on the poor person as they progress, maybe even personally checking in on them periodically.

The second person looks down and says this is what I pay taxes for; this is a job for the government. There are programs for people like these. They can get food stamps, AIDC, EIC, all sorts of welfare – and as long as they have a mailbox or a bank account, they can get aid sent directly to them so they don’t have to clog up his streets. This individual walks past with no personal integration and when back at his workplace, complains that there is a church run homeless shelter in his neighborhood and that the city government should make them move because, again, he doesn’t pay taxes so that there can be poor people in his neighborhood. He thinks that the only reason that there are poor people on the streets is that the government doesn’t spend enough and if they don’t have the money, they should just tax the rich more…and those hypocritical right-wing Christians running the shelter, well don’t get him started on them…if they really cared, they would be for higher taxes.

Both people think they are moral because they contribute money to help “the poor”. One does it personally, the other supports government programs.

Of the two, who is really the moral person?

There is a huge definitional problem in society today. There is a large component in society who do not understand the difference between compassion and sympathy. Webster defines compassion as “a sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it”, sympathy as “an affinity, association, or relationship between persons or things wherein whatever affects one similarly affects the other”. Notice the difference? People who feel compassion are driven by a desire to alleviate the condition, people who feel sympathy only assume that they “feel” and understand an individual’s plight. To have compassion requires action in involvement, sympathy merely requires observation.

To say “I feel your pain”, as Billy Jeff Clinton did, is not compassion, it is sympathy. To actually do something about another’s pain is compassion.

There is no such thing as corporate or collective compassion. Compassion is an individual trait, the giving of yourself for others. This is the true morality that is taught by Judeo-Christian religion and the reason for the term Christian charity, a term with specific meaning. Saint Thomas Aquinas understood this as “the friendship of man for God”, which “unites us to God”. He holds it as “the most excellent of the virtues“. Aquinas held that “the habit of charity extends not only to the love of God, but also to the love of our neighbor”

In December of 2006, John Stossel reported on the research and subsequent book by Arthur Brooks, Ph. D., who at the time was a social science researcher and a professor at Syracuse. Dr. Brooks is currently the President of the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. Stossel writes:

“When you look at the data,” says Syracuse University professor Arthur Brooks, “it turns out the conservatives give about 30 percent more. And incidentally, conservative-headed families make slightly less money.”

Researching his book, “Who Really Cares“, Brooks found that the conservative/liberal difference goes beyond money:

“The people who give one thing tend to be the people who give everything in America. You find that people who believe it’s the government’s job to make incomes more equal, are far less likely to give their money away.”

Conservatives are even 18 percent more likely to donate blood.

As a general rule, liberals prefer to let government handle it; conservatives are more likely to get engaged. Conservatives feel compassion, liberals feel sympathy, yet because conservatives favor capitalism, we are called evil and selfish. I believe that, for all their protestations, the liberal orthodoxy is actually callous, dismissive and cold. Their belief in government and communistic philosophies are not compassionate, they are mechanical and impersonal.

Which political ideology is more moral?

You be the judge.

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One thought on “Compassion And Sympathy Are Not The Same

  1. I’ve rapped a number of left-leaning friends for this, and make it a point to post every story I can find about people who have taken a genuine interest in the welfare of their fellow humans and freely share their blessings with those who have less (this would be on my Facebook page, for the record, although perhaps I need to start doing a weekly aggregate post of them on dailymomprayers). There is a genuine lack of understanding of the fundamental difference between providing welfare benefits and personally looking after the welfare of another. Great post, Rio — thanks. Peace be with you — Kelly

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