Pity and compassion are two distinct terms that are often misunderstood by individuals in their day to day activities. Compassion encompasses a strong feeling or sympathy for an individual feels to another who is in need (Aaron 7).
Good example of compassion in the Biblical teaching of a Good Samaritan. The Good Samaritan had met a person who had been badly beaten, robbed and left on the road side. Two guys had walked by without even acknowledging the guy who had been beaten, but the good Samaritan came along and took the one in need and helps his bruises, cuts, and pays for shelter until not needed anymore.
On the other hand, pity entails a sympathetic sorrow that an individual feels after learning or experiencing the suffering of others. Pity and compassion are used interchangeably to mean the same thing but the fact is these two terms are different.
Precisely, compassion is a more of an action or a compulsion to do something to relieve the pain of others while pity is a feeling, a sharing in the pain of others. These two terms have been differently used by various philosophers such as Emanuel and Plato.
In his philosophical work on categorical imperative, Emanuel Kant demonstrated what an act of compassion entails. Based on the perception that every act that an individual takes comes after extensive reasoning.
A compassionate act results after an individual weighs what is good between helping the person in need and failing to help at all. Based on the philosophy of categorical imperative, a person is said to be good or bad based on the motivation of his or her actions rather than the goodness of the consequences of those actions (Stephen 23). In this context, the term motivation means the driving force that influences a person to do the action (the reason for doing it).
For example, in reference to the aforementioned example of a Good Samaritan, the motive of helping the person who had been robbed, beaten and left on the road side was not due to what he would have received at the end (for example, praise and fame from those who witnessed his acts of compassion) but because of his humanity.
He ever expected anything from the person in need in terms of being thanked and refunded the money that he spend on him, but was motivated by the acts of kindness and compassion that he had. the acts of compassion makes an individual to have a moral worth, and this is only if he or she is motivated by morality rather than the desires or emotions of what he or she will get at the end.
In addition, Kant also stated that for a person to be genuinely compassionate to another who is in need, he or she must perceive that he is being motivated by duty, which compels him or her to do it regardless of whether he liked it or not.
Though compassion is the sympathetic act that an individual opt to take in order to help another who is in need, it can be motivated by a number of factors. Pity is one of the factors which can motivate an individual to be compassionate to another who is in need of help.
For example, using the case of a Good Samaritan, he first felt pity to the robbed and beaten man before proceeding to help him. Pity is what compelled him to show compassion by helping him out in terms of wiping the bruises, giving him accommodation and some coins to take care of himself.
It is unfortunate that in the present times, most individuals do not possess these virtues and are happy when they happen to learn or see others suffering. For example, it is very unfortunate there are still people who are starving to death in the present times despite the presence of numerous individuals who belong to the upper economic class.
When most of the rich individuals happens to encounter fellow human beings who are starving, malnourished and living in abstract poverty, the former claims that the predicament of the latter is due to laziness. This analogy alone makes the rich to be reluctant to help the poor, and this is an enough proof that most of the individuals in the present times rarely possess the aspect of being pity and compassion to the less fortunate.
Despite the fact that the level of competition for limited resources such as employment opportunities, food and inflated economic times, the basic values of humanity such as being pity and compassionate to others should not be diluted by these pressures.
The few individuals who show pity and compassion to others do not do it out of good will or do not do it as a duty, but they do it for the sake of gaining fame. For example, considering that there are numerous technological inventions that have been developed today, most individuals have embraced the use of social media platforms to enhance their popularity.
In this regard some of the individuals who are being pity and compassionate to others always end up posting what they have done in these social media platforms in order to be recognized, appreciated and even manage to win the minds of most followers especially by asking them to vote them in various public offices.
However, these acts dilutes the moral worth of a person who is doing compassionate acts to others. Regarding to the aforementioned philosophy of categorical imperative, an individual does not earn moral worth if the motivation of the compassionate act was desires or personal happiness. Posting images of compassionate acts on social media is motivated by the urge of feeding an individual`s ego, rather than the duty to do it since it is the right thing to do.
It is also worth noting that an individual can be pity to another person who is need and fail to be compassionate to the same passion. For example, when an individual happens to see others starving on his or her television, he may feel pity but also long as he or she does not take the initial step of trying to help such a victim, he does not earn a moral worth.
In contrast, a person who is compassionate is also being pity to the person in need of help, and this is due to the fact that being pity is one of the driving forces for an individual to be compassionate (Aaron 31). For example, a person who proceeds to help another from a difficult situation tends to have shown pity to the victim, and this is what motivates him or her to help.
Aaron Ben-Ze’ev,. The Subtlety of Emotions. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000. Print.
Stephen Engstrom. The Form of Practical Knowledge: A Study of the Categorical Imperative. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2009. Print.