Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Pity and Compassion

Pity vs Compassion

Human emotion is the expression of an individual’s psychological and physiological experiences. It can show a person’s personality, mood, temperament, motivation, and overall disposition. It can instigate an individual’s behavior and influence how he reacts to certain people and situations.

Humans share five basic emotions: fear, anger, disgust, happiness, and sadness. Sadness or sorrow is an emotion that stems from an individual’s frustration over an object, a person, or a situation. It is the basis for the emotion of pity.

Pity comes from the Old French term “pite” which means “duty,” from the Latin word “pietas” which also means “duty,” and “pius” which means “dutiful.” It is defined as a feeling of sympathy or the capacity of sharing in the sorrows and troubles of another individual or an animal.
It is aroused by the knowledge of the suffering and misfortune of another and stimulates him towards a positive action such as extending physical, emotional, as well as financial aid to the suffering individual.
In order for a person to feel pity towards another, he must have experienced the same predicament and feel that the person suffering does not deserve his fate. Sometimes pity can be tinged with contempt and dislike, but benevolent pity is more commonly felt especially by those practicing Christianity.
It is important to be very careful in showing pity because it can sometimes worsen an individual’s feelings of sorrow and draw him towards feelings of depression and self-pity.

Compassion, on the other hand, is considered by most religions as one of the greatest virtues man can have. It is seen as a part of the emotion of love and as a foundation of humanism, the study of human values and concerns.
It has depth, passion, and vigor and is distinctly apparent by an individual’s great desire to alleviate another’s suffering or misfortune. It has the attributes of being merciful, kind, and forgiving, oftentimes showing empathy as well.
The term “compassion” comes from the Latin word “compassio” which means “co-suffering” and “compati” which means “to suffer.”


1.Pity is the feeling of sympathy or sharing in the suffering of another human being or an animal while compassion is the feeling of mercy, empathy, and a desire to help the suffering person or animal.
2.Pity is an emotion while compassion is both an emotion and a virtue.
3.Pity can sometimes be tinged with contempt or dislike while compassion is part of love and is therefore free from any negative feelings.

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  1. While pity involves the belief in the inferiority of the object, compassion assumes equality in common humanity. In pity we could offer substantial help, but perceive ourselves as not being primarily willing to do so. Pity is improper if we have power to alleviate suffering.

    Pity Is Not Love.

    Pity considers the other to be inferior, and is related to contempt.

    In compassion, caring is the basic attitude, a crucial part of love.

    Belief that a person is undeserving of substantial misfortune does not necessarily involve a moral positive evaluation of this person as a whole, or of his past activities.

    Spinoza, for example, argues that “Pity, in a man who lives according to the guidance of reason, is evil of itself, and useless”.

    The bad press received by pity concerns both what pity lacks, namely, actual assistance, and what it implies, wich means, a feeling of superiority and satisfaction with our own position.

  2. why do the sages suggest when angry with a person, it’s helpful to pity them so that we can alleviate our own frustration? Do we pity them in their stupidity of causing us this anger?

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