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Is the virtue of compassion in your character?

Compassion is the ability to stand with others in their distress and to take the reality of our neighbour seriously. It is an active disposition towards sharing and supporting those who are facing adverse circumstances. Compassion is foundational to other virtues, for it makes you morally aware of our neighbour, towards whom many of the other virtues are directed.

It is synonymous with mercy, as expressed in the “Seven works of mercy” of feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, visiting the prisoners, burying the dead and giving alms to the poor. The Catholic tradition also suggests seven “spiritual works” of mercy, which include admonishing the sinner, instructing the ignorant, counselling the doubtful, bearing wrongs patiently, forgiving offences willingly, comforting the afflicted, and prayer. Compassion is also related to empathy, as the disposition to understand and share the feelings of others.

Does this describe you? If so, well done, you are a compassionate person.

The opposing vices

It is easy to see the deficiency vices of compassion in disregard, selfishness, indifference and cynicism. Perhaps the excesses of compassion are less obvious, but they need to be carefully understood as they can lead to the vice of self-annulment.

Do any of these describe you?  If they do, and if your score in the Virtue Test was low in this virtue, then you may want to choose to work on the virtue of compassion in your character.


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