Compassion and Empathy Are Not Interchangeable

Compassion vs. Empathy: What is the Difference?

Compassion vs. Empathy: What is the Difference?

Compassion and empathy are not interchangeable.

Compassion means having concern or sympathy for someone else’s suffering and wanting to go alongside them on their journey.

Empathy is defined more by relating to and understanding their feelings.


Having compassion means showing sympathy and concern for someone or something.

Compassion is driven by:

  • Wanting to see a change in that person’s life
  • Standing with them as they suffer
  • Suffering along with them
  • Being there as they go through a difficult time
  • Being supportive in words, thoughts, and actions.
  • Giving words of comfort (condolences along with positive words of encouragement)
  • Being an effective listener.
  • Sharing with someone they are in your thoughts and prayers is a way of offering encouragement. It shows support during their difficult situation.
  • Thinking of them
  • Praying for them
  • Holding space to listen
  • Being  there for them

Compassion in action

Taking action steps to take care of things while someone is experiencing difficulty in life shows compassion in action.

For example: Picking up a friend’s child from school while she is visiting her husband at the hospital.

  • Taking care of a home
  • Cooking a meal
  • Making phone calls
  • Helping organize paperwork


  • You understand what they are going through
  • A relatable experience, you have previously undergone
  • Feeling what they are going through
  • Sharing thoughts and emotions with someone else
  • Understanding how someone else is feeling
  • Empathy uses emotional intelligence to

Relate to someone else’s feelings

  • Understand
  • Feel

How You can be More Compassionate

Start with yourself

When the inner critic tries to take over

  • Think kinder, gentler thoughts
  • Act more compassionate toward you
  • Tell yourself you are worthy of receiving
  • leave any guilt behind

Once compassion for yourself is an established habit, you can take on sharing that with others.

Fill your compassion cup, and then you can share compassion.

How you can be a More Empathetic person

  • Listen without judgment
  • without the desire to respond.
  • Without thinking a million other thoughts
  • Relate


  • what it might feel like
  • to have their experience
  • to be that person

Be Real

  • show up as raw and vulnerable
  • let your own guard down

These are the significant differences between compassion and empathy. Learn how to implement more of each throughout the day. Remember compassion and empathy are not interchangeable.

Learn more in part 1