The Nature and Practice of Compassion
Abstract: Compassion is in. It’s the hot virtue to have, the iPhone of the moral virtues. Compassion is widely praised, but not so widely practiced. What is this virtue, and what is its importance for Christian moral and spiritual formation? In this chapter, I will explore the relationship of compassion to a Christian conception of human flourishing. By drawing from a variety of classic and contemporary sources, I will clarify the intellectual, emotional, and active aspects of compassion. There are numerous barriers to compassion, such as insensitivity, self-absorption, and self-deception. Fortunately, there are several practical activities that we can engage in to develop this virtue, including becoming a part of a community of compassion, practicing compassion in small ways in our everyday lives, and using the imagination in order to foster the development of this important moral virtue.