As a helping professional I talk a lot about compassion and I place a lot of value on it. I decided to explore what exactly is meant by compassion.
Compassion is first (but not only) a feeling. It is an emotional experience. When you feel compassion for someone you feel pain, sorrow, and sadness because that person is suffering. You imagine how that person feels and you try to put yourself in that person's shoes. You empathize with that person.
Compassion also requires action. To be compassionate one must not only feel compassion but must also EXPRESS sorrow and sympathy to the person who is suffering.
Finally, compassion involves a desire to alleviate the other person's suffering. Along with that desire comes a willingness to take some action to help alleviate the person's suffering if it is possible to do so. If there is nothing that can be done to help the person change his or her situation then the compassionate thing to do is to simply be with the person and to let the person know you care.
Compassion is not a passive state and it goes beyond just a feeling. Compassion is something you practice by taking action to alleviate the suffering of others. When we say we are compassionate we must ask ourselves -- are we doing that?