Sympathy or Compassion?

The two words "sympathy" and "compassion" are somewhat akin in meaning, but close analysis brings out an important difference in their connotation. A dictionary defines "sympathy" as "quality of being affected by the state or condition of another; fellow-feeling." In speaking with persons said to have a sympathetic nature, we find our own mood reflected, and we sometimes enjoy the sense of responsiveness awakened in another. When we learn in Christian Science to "judge righteous judgment," unbidden emotions are not permitted to enter without challenge. The student distinguishes between false human sympathy and true compassion.

On page 211 of "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" our Leader, Mrs. Eddy, writes, "Sympathy with error should disappear." There is thus no virtue in false sympathy; it cannot possibly help anyone, for it is only an erroneous emotion. In the intimate associations of daily living we see the need of great care in the exercise of sympathy. The human so-called mind listens readily to tales of error. Wisdom, however, teaches us to reverse the wrong impression with the truth. False sympathy is one of error's ways of climbing into the sheepfold of our thinking. Being error, it cannot enter by the door, for only the truth comes in at the door of thought which is properly guarded. Sympathizing with a mistake is not the way to correct it; but Christian Science teaches one how to impart the knowledge of Truth which destroys error and suffering.

There is a right sense of sympathy which truly is compassion. On page 366 of Science and Health Mrs. Eddy says, "The physician who lacks sympathy for his fellow-being is deficient in human affection." This true sense of sympathy leads thought naturally on to compassion, which a dictionary defines as "sorrow or pity with desire to help or spare; sympathy with pain or sorrow that prompts one to relieve." It is recorded of Christ Jesus that "when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them," and that he "went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people." This passage carries out the definition of compassion just quoted. The great Master taught the people the way of life eternal, that they might be spared trials and troubles and be helped out of them. The student of Christian Science learns how to help himself and others; and the true sense of compassion prompts him to relieve any sense of suffering.

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Faith and Logic
October 5, 1929

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