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What's Changing? - Compassion



Please see below key recent compassion-related change.


See also:


December 2021


August 2021


March 2021

  • New Zealand's parliament passed landmark legislation granting three days paid leave for couples who experience a miscarriage or stillbirth. The MP who put forward the bill said New Zealand should lead the way on "progressive and compassionate legislation."


December 2020


September 2020


August 2020

  • In Without Compassion, Resilient Leaders Will Fall Short, HBR warned that, if you’re an exceptionally strong and resilient (business) leader, you should recognise that you are the unusual one and don’t judge others based on yourself. Instead, think about what prepared you for the experiences that have made you stronger. Then apply that thinking to others, who haven’t been trained as you have. Take that “What’s wrong with them?” energy and use it to create an environment for them to be stronger. Don’t be so quick to judge them as failures. You have no idea what else may be going on for them. And don’t forget the genetic lottery - some of your stability may be inborn, and you can’t take credit for that.


April 2020


January 2020

  • Stanford University professor Dr. James Doty's research demonstrated the physical and mental health benefits of showing compassion and kindness. Our brain's default "rest mode" is chronically hijacked and placed in what Doty calls "threat mode" because of our stressful, busy lifestyles. That threat mode is triggered by our sympathetic nervous system, which releases inflammatory proteins in response to stress. Research shows that being kind to others flips the switch and places our bodies into parasympathetic nervous system instead.


November 2019

  • When many people grow up they realise a horrific reality: we exist in a world of seeming indifference to almost everything we are, think, say or do. We might be in late adolescence when the point really hits home. We might be in a bedsit at university or wandering the streets of the city at night on our own - when it occurs to us, with full force, how negligible a thing we are in the wider scheme. No one in the crowds we pass knows anything about us. Our welfare is of no concern to them. 


October 2019


April 2019

  • For Big Think, the truth is we aren't as compassionate as we'd like to believe, because of a paradox of large numbers. Compassion is a product of our sociality as primates. In his book, The Expanding Circle: Ethics, Evolution, and Moral Progress, Peter Singer stated that "human beings are social animals. We were social before we were human", and that "we can be sure that we restrained our behaviour toward our fellows before we were rational human beings. Social life requires some degree of restraint. A social grouping cannot stay together if its members make frequent and unrestrained attacks on one another". Even after hundreds of centuries of evolution, when tragedy strikes beyond our community, our compassion wanes as the number of displaced, injured, and dead mounts. The drop-off in commiseration has been termed the collapse of compassion. The term has also been defined in The Oxford Handbook of Compassion Science: ". . . people tend to feel and act less compassionately for multiple suffering victims than for a single suffering victim."


March 2019

  • The School of Life believes that, to survive in the high-pressured conditions of modernity, we have little option but to grow up to be highly adept at self-criticism, at swiftly picking up on our errors and taking stock of our short-comings. We learn to take responsibility and to be open to feedback. But so good are we at this that we’re in danger of falling prey to an excessive version of self-criticism: a form of self-flagellation which teaches us nothing new and inspires only depression and underperformance. We have taken self-criticism too far when it no longer has any effect on our level of achievement, when it simply saps our morale and our will to get out of bed. It’s at this point that we need to carve out some time to sample an emotional state of which many of us are profoundly suspicious: self-compassion.


February 2019

  • Self-compassion has been defined as being kind to one’s self and being able to use self-reassurance and soothing in times of adversity. It includes being non-judgemental about one’s self and recognising one’s experience as part of the human condition. a 2019 academic study found that self-compassion and its cultivation in psychological interventions are associated with improved mental health and well-being. However, as the underlying processes for this are not well understood, the study randomly assigned 135 participants to study the effect of two short-term exercises. Increased self-reported-state self-compassion, affiliative affect, and decreased self-criticism were found after both self-compassion exercises and the positive-excitement condition. However, a psychophysiological response pattern of reduced arousal (reduced heart rate and skin conductance) and increased parasympathetic activation (increased heart rate variability) were unique to the self-compassion conditions.
  • Further reading:


December 2018

  • The School of Life believes that we need to carve out some time to sample an emotional state of which many of us are profoundly suspicious: self-compassion. We’re suspicious because we are nervously over-familiar with the risks associated with self-pity. Many of us will have given up on the last traces of self-pity somewhere in late adolescence, but the condition remains vivid. We are aware that, by being kind to ourselves, we may over-indulge our undeserving characters, miss valuable insights and ruin our potential. However, because depression and self-disgust are serious enemies too, we need to re-learn the value of calculated moments of self-compassion; we need to appreciate the role of self-care in a good, ambitious and fruitful life.
  • Giving selectively to a few charities is better than a fragmented approach. Trying to take on too many needs and problems of other people can lead to “compassion fatigue”, warned Quartz.


October 2018


July 2018

  • A Quartz writer argued that feeling compassion and respect for the creatures around us doesn’t necessarily preclude eating meat. Whether we’re vegans or devout carnivores, our actions will sometimes have ramifications that cause harm to other living things. What’s important, the writer believes, is interrogating our individual ethics and responsibilities.
  • An article on HumanProgress argued that compassion is the emotion that orchestrates need-based help - help toward those worse off than oneself. Our ancestors lived in a world without social or medical insurance, and so they benefit from covering each other's shortfalls through mutual help. If your neighbours are starving and you have food, you can save their life by sharing with them. Later, when the situation is reversed and they share their food with you, your life is saved.



  • "Nobody foresaw the world shortage of respect", claimed Theodore Zeldin, so compassion and empathy are perhaps our best responses to the growing realisation that even as we watch each other post and connect and feed and comment and tweet, what goes on in other people's heads is becoming ever more puzzling.
  • Charles Darwin seems to have thought so, believing that compassion for other sentient beings was the highest moral virtue. This informed other aspects of his world view, such as his passionate opposition to slavery.
  • The term "compassion" has fallen out of touch with reality, argued journalist Krista Tippett, who deconstructs the meaning of compassion through stories, and proposes a new definition, linking it with kindness, "curiosity without assumptions", empathy, forgiveness, beauty, generosity and presence.
  • So let's find and honour and reward meaning-makers and empathisers. Welcome as they are, charters of compassion are just the start - perhaps we need open-source universities of the intimate, "where all generations can exchange experience, culture and hope".2
  • Karen Armstrong, making her wish when accepting her TED Prize, called for a global charter of compassion. Her call for universal outreach chimes well with the idea of xenophilia. She believes that we can all follow the golden rule (i.e "do unto others...), but that we need to now move beyond mere toleration of the other, towards active appreciation of the other. Hers is a fine idea, as long as (a) it can be secular/humanist as well as religious in tone and (b) it doesn't just evolve from a wish into a wishlist - i.e. it will need to specify what tangible benefits might adopting the charter accrue to individuals and societies.
  • Strangers can "see" a person's trustworthy genes through their behaviours, suggested a new study, which found that a single genetic change makes a person seem more compassionate and kind to others.
  • The Charter for Compassion, from Karen Armstrong's 2008 wish ,was designed to create a ripple effect for years to come.
  •  "New Compassion" argued for more equality, kindness and giving.

1. Theodore Zeldin, Intimate History of Humanity, p28;

2. Intimate History of Humanity, p31