The Meaning of Compassion

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Unfortunately, compassion is terribly misrepresented, mischaracterized, and misunderstood in our society such that many people think that if someone behaves badly (unethically, immorally, unjustly, even violently) then they don’t deserve compassion, because that would imply that you condone that bad behavior. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The truth is compassion doesn’t condone bad behavior; it helps transcend it. This is so key, because too many of us walk around thinking that if we’re compassionate to people who do bad, violent, rude or inappropriate things we’re condoning that behavior — and since of course we DON’T  condone bad, rude, violent behavior — then we think it logically follows that we have to withhold compassion … to demonstrate that we oppose that bad, violent, rude, or inappropriate behavior? Right? 

Many of us consciously or unconsciously say:

“I’m not going to have compassion for…slaughterhouse workers, animal farmers, animal abusers, hunters, people who test on animals, people who eat animals, conservatives, liberals, [fill-in-the-blank]— because…they don’t deserve my compassion,” and so we make our compassion conditional or treat it like it’s a prize to be bestowed upon someone based on merit or worth.

Compassion is a gift to be bestowed. It’s not a prize to be awarded or withheld. Where there is the absence of compassion means there is a need for more compassion — not less. 

In today’s podcast episode, I talk about the meaning of compassion in a presentation I was invited to give for a special event by Rancho Compasion, a farmed animal sanctuary founded by Miyoko Schinner. 


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Hello, and welcome. I’m Colleen, aka The Joyful Vegan, and I’m here to give you the tools and resources you need to eat, cook, travel, and live compassionately and healthfully. 

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