Definition of Compassion

I just read one of the best conceptualizations of compassion that I’ve ever read outside of the Holy Scripture:

Hebrew [chesed]: To love tenderly, to have mercy, compassion upon anyone

“Compassion is derived from the Latin words ‘pati’ and ‘cum’ which together mean “to suffer with.” Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.”  -Henri Nouwen

That dude was in some (well documented) serious pain in a life-long internal struggle with his faith and sexuality when he wrote that. He knew what compassion looked like because he needed some – badly. I see what he wrote as the starting point for those who claim to be Christ-ones (the literal translation of Christian).

Are you a Christ-one? Prioritize your life. Stand up, walk out the door and start sprinting towards anyone you can find that needs some tangible compassion; one full of God’s love, grace and understanding of what it means to live in the tension of being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see in how that intersects in our real life circumstances.

Much love.

About Andrew Marin

Andrew Marin is President and Founder of The Marin Foundation ( He is author of the award winning book Love Is an Orientation (2009), its interactive DVD curriculum (2011), and recently an academic ebook titled Our Last Option: How a New Approach to Civility can Save the Public Square (2013). Andrew is a regular contributor to a variety of media outlets and frequently lectures at universities around the world. Since 2010 Andrew has been asked by the United Nations to advise their various agencies on issues of bridging opposing worldviews, civic engagement, and theological aspects of reconciliation. For twelve years he lived in the LGBT Boystown neighborhood of Chicago, and is currently based St. Andrews, Scotland, where he is teaching and researching at the University of St. Andrews earning his PhD in Constructive Theology with a focus on the Theology of Culture. Andrew's research centers on the cultural, political, and religious dynamics of reconciliation. Andrew is married to Brenda, and you can find him elsewhere on Twitter (@Andrew_Marin), Facebook (AndrewMarin01), and Instagram (@andrewmarin1).