Commentary: How We Can Harness and Share Compassion
For the San Antonio Express-News, November 25, 2020
By Dennis Patrick Slattery
The word “compassion” entered the fringes of social discourse years ago and has now moved closer to the center of discussion for many. Etymologically, its history reaches back to ancient periods. In Greek, “compassion” had its origin in the noun “patient,” or “one who suffers.” It is also connected to “patiens,” from the Greek “paskhein,” “to suffer.”
In the biblical sense, compassion means “someone else’s heartbreak becomes your heartbreak.” In Latin, as well, it carries the same sense of getting out of one’s own preoccupations and placing the other before one’s self.
I recall hearing the word gathering steam when the biblical scholar Karen Armstrong gave a national TED talk in 2008 on compassion. She then convened a group of global religious and lay individuals to begin a Charter for Compassion in 2009. Her request in the talk included the following: “I wish that you would help with the creation, launch and propagation of a Charter for Compassion, crafted by a group of leading inspirational thinkers from the three Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam and based on the fundamental principles of universal justice and respect.”