Compassion vs Empathy: What is the Difference?

Last week we discussed why compassion is important. This week, we’re going to delve into the difference between compassion and empathy. I’ll even share a few tips on how to be more compassionate as well as a few tips on how to be more empathetic.

Compassion and empathy are often substituted for one another, but they do not have the same meaning. Compassion means having sympathy and concern for someone else’s suffering along with wanting to go alongside them on their journey. Whereas empathy is defined more by an understanding and relating to the feelings of another person. 

Let’s take a look at both:


When you have compassion for someone you show sympathy and concern for someone or something (i.e. a pet or an endangered species). Compassion is driven by wanting to make a change in that person’s life, standing alongside them as they go through their pain, suffering with them, and holding space for them as they go through a difficult time. 

Compassion means being supportive in word, thoughts, and in action. 

Words of comfort – compassion is shown in language by offering words of comfort. Have you ever attended a funeral and offered condolences along with positive words of encouragement? That is compassion. 

Compassion in thought –Letting someone know they’re in your thoughts and prayers is a way of offering support and encouragement during their difficult period. Thinking of them, praying for them, and being available to listen and be there for them is an act of compassion. 

Compassion in action – Taking action steps by physically taking care of things while someone is having trouble in life shows compassion in action. For example, taking care of the home, cooking a meal, making phone calls, helping organize paperwork, or picking up a friend’s child from school are all examples of compassion in action. 


To have empathy for someone means you understand what they are going through – either through a relatable experience you’ve previously undergone or through an ability to feel what they’re going through because of your own empathic superpowers.

Sharing thoughts and emotions with someone else is an example of empathy. Understanding how someone else is feeling is another. Empathy uses emotional intelligence to understand, feel, or relate to someone else’s feelings. 

How to be More Compassionate

One of the best ways to become more compassionate is to start with yourself:

  • Think kinder, gentler thoughts when your inner critic tries to take over.
  • Take more compassionate actions toward yourself.
  • Repeat after me: I am worthy of self-compassion and leave the guilt at the door.

Once showing compassion for yourself becomes a new habit, take on releasing that out to others. Once your compassion cup is full, it will be easier to show compassion toward others.  

How to be More Empathetic

Here are a few ways to become more empathetic:

  • Listen – listening without judgment, without the desire to respond, and without thinking a million other thoughts is a great way to take on being more empathetic. 
  • Relate – try to understand what it might feel like to be the person or to have that experience. Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes goes a long way toward being more empathetic. 
  • Be Real – show up as raw and vulnerable and you are on your way to being more empathetic. Letting your guard down allows someone else to enter. 


We’ve gone over the difference between compassion and empathy and ways to implement more of each throughout your day. Give them a try and come back here to share how it went.


Need more self-care tips including info on incorporating more laughter into your day, head on over to A Cup of Positivity on Facebook join the discussion.

Discover the Power of Self-Love

Self-love is not selfish.

Self-Love JournalLearning to love yourself is on of the most difficult things you will ever do on this journey called life. It’s okay to take care of your needs first. This doesn’t mean you aren’t going to take care of your To-Do list. It simply means you’re changing priorities so that you put yourself first.

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  • Space to record your thoughts and feelings

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You owe it to yourself to become the best version of yourself you can be.

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Patricia “Pat” Bumpass is a ghostwriter, self-care advocate, author, and parent coach.
She encourages and empowers women and parents with special needs kids to love themselves.
Pat is North Carolina “born and bred” and loves coffee — hot or iced. You will often hear her say, “Twertles make me happy.” 🙂 

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