Compassion:  A Powerful Strength to Possess

Compassion: Kindness, Tenderness, Unconditional Love, Empathy

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these. – George Washington Carver, Legacy: Educator and Innovator recognized by Iowa State College for being the only African-American with advanced training in agricultural science.

Compassion: Appears as Vulnerability

Why is it that compassion appears to be in short supply these days? It feels as if compassion has been lost to many who opt to take a hard-nosed, ego driven, aggressive approach towards leading and living. What do you ‘think’ and how do you ‘feel’ when you witness compassionate versus stern behaviors among family members, friends, colleagues or by people holding formal leadership positions? Many view compassion as being naivety, too soft, gullible; a weakness. Ironically, history has taught that it is compassion for others that made our greatest leaders legendary.

Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection – or compassionate action.
― Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships

Canadian Leaders

A few of Canada’s greatest, compassionate leaders include(d): Tommy Douglas, Lieutenant-General Roméo Antonius Dallaire, Jack Leyton, General Rick Hillier and most recently Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

General Rick Hillier: The RMC Alumni, states, “The force of his personality, combined with genuine compassion and extraordinary vision, has left an impression upon every Canadian soldier, sailor, airman and air woman. During his tenure as Chief of Defense Staff, General Hillier stirred emotions and hopes like no other before him. The Canadian Forces were galvanized under his leadership. With him they could feel their credibility grow amongst the Canadian people. At the same time, his leadership led to a steady and positive increase in the reputation of Canada and the Canadian Forces internationally. (accessed: January 13, 2017)

American Leaders

Great American leaders who possess(ed) compassion include(d):  founder George Washington, George Washington Carver, Thomas Jefferson, Abe Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Al Gore, Barack and Michelle Obama, Jimmy Carter, Eleanor Roosevelt

To handle yourself, use your head. To handle others, use your heart. – Eleanor Roosevelt,

What are the things that you can’t see that are important? I would say justice, truth, humility, service, compassion, love…They’re the guiding lights of a life. – Jimmy Carter

Let your heart feel for the afflictions and distress of everyone. – George Washington

George Washington commanded America’s war for independence and was the first President of the United States. A leading biographer, Douglas Southall Freeman noted, “the great big thing stamped across that man is character.” David Hackett Fischer  “Freeman meant integrity, self-discipline, courage, absolute honesty, resolve, and decision, but also forbearance, decency, and respect for others.[1]

International Leaders

Malala Yousafzai, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (a.k.a. Queen Mom), Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Desmond Tutu, Dalai Lama, Princess Diana.

The highest of distinctions is service to others. – King George VI (Legacy: Crowned as king of the United Kingdom in 1937. Supported Winston Churchill; is noted as being an important symbolic leader for the British people during World War II. Visited armies on the battle fronts.)

I do not even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there was a gun in my hand and he was standing in front of me, I would not shoot him. This is the compassion I have learned from Mohammed, the Prophet of mercy, Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha. – Malala Yousafzai

Let us reject the impulse to harden ourselves to others’ suffering, and instead make a habit of empathy – of recognizing ourselves in each other and extending our compassion to those in need. – Barak Obama

Quotes Worth Contemplating:

  • Our prime purpose in life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, don’t hurt them. – Dalai Lama
  • If you had not suffered as you have, there would be no depth to you as a human being. No humility. No compassion. – Eckhart Tolle
  • There never was any heart truly great and generous, that was not also tender and generous. – Robert Frost
  • If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. – Dalai Lama
  • You must be compassionate to one’s self before external compassion. – Dalai Lama
  • Compassion and tolerance are not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength. – Dalai Lama
  • Love and compassion are necessities not luxuries. Without them humanity can not survive. – Dalai Lama
  • Yoga is not only a practice and a passing along of great sacred teachings, but also a social movement for more human goodness, compassion and peace. – Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau

Tools and Other Resources:


Discovering and sharing intriguing resources by authors who inspire me is a joy. Focusing upon, following and learning from positive people who have developed the capacty to shine their unique light of human being-ness has been a lifetime pleasure of mine.  Interested in learning more about compassion, a characteristic of great leaders? If so, my hope is that you discvoer something of value among these books which share many insights from numerous vantage points:

Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships by Daniel Goleman

I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai

Waiting for First Light: by Romeo Delair

The Dalai Lama’s Book of Love and Compassion by the Dalai Lama

Self Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristen Neff, Ph.D

Self Compassion Step by Step: The Proven Power of Being King to Yourself by Kristen Neff, Ph.D

12 Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong

The Power of Kindness: The Unexpected Benefits of Leading a Compassionate Life by Piero Ferrucci

The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions by Christopher K. Germer PhD

The Compassionate Mind:  A New Approach to Life’s Challenges by Paul Gilbert

Mindful Compassion:  How the Science of Compassion Can Help You Understand Your Emotions, Live in the Present, and Connect Deeply with Others by Paul Gilbert (Author), Choden (Author)

Power versus Force by David R. Hawkins 

Miscellaneous Tools and Other Resources:

You may choose to add a few of the following resources to your toolkit for life:

Test How Self-Compassionate You Are by Kirsten Neff, Ph.D

A Checklist to Learn Self-Compassion by Deepak Chopra, M.D. 

Infograph:  The Scientific Evidence of Self-compassion by Emma Seppälä, Ph.D Science Director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education and the author of The Happiness Track (HarperOne, 2016).

Three Insights from the Cutting Edge of Compassion Research by Emma Seppälä, Ph.D


Stanford Medicine – Centre of Compassion and Altruism Research and Education – Research by Kristen Neff et al

New York Times Article: Go Easy on Yourself, A New Wave of Research Urges by Tara Parker Pope

Scientific American: Self-compassion Fosters Mental Health by Marina Krakovsky

What is compassion and how can we measure it?


I was blessed to be born to parents who role modelled compassion and empathy. They taught us that compassion began in our home and was to be extended to our neighbors, our community and beyond. In fact, yesterday while writing this blog post I was interrupted by a call from  my very independent 80 year old Mother who called to invite me to pick her up so that, together, we could drop off a couple of donations to two of many charities we support. She is a compassionate self-leader who enjoys giving her people a friendly nudge every now and then, checking in to ensure we are exercising our compassion and empathy muscle.

I am a first generation Newfoundlander-Canadian. My home province is Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada’s youngest province whose reputation, throughout the majority of my youth, was one of poverty –‘financial’. National news coverage about Newfoundland and Labrador often produced statements such as: “Forget Newfoundland, derided for decades as the fish-dependent fiscal laughingstock of Canada”(National Post) and “Rural Newfoundland (along with our great land north of 60) is probably the most vast and scenic welfare ghetto in the world.” (The Globe and Mail, 2005 updated 2009).

A Journalist’s Lens: Compassion

Imagine if the journalistic lens was configured to focus on compassion and empathy; opportunity and potential; uplifting and conscious awareness. Why all the harshness, negativtiy, ridicule and why tear one another down? What purpose does such negative reporting serve? Upon reflection, I recall when I tuned into this type of reporting and how it left me feeling. Simply awful!  What is such journalism trying to achievie? Shouldn’t we be planting inspirational seeds in innocent, vulnerable minds? My father was a history and geography teacher, a theologian, a seeker of the truth. I am grateful for his wise teachings – I have grown to understand and appreciate the power of words, thoughts and actions.

I watched and read many stories written and shared by Canadian journalists throughout my youth.  Many either skimmed the surface or learned how to ride the waves of catching quick and easy newsworthy stories; such stories rarely left our province looking good in their wake.  Opting to dig a little deeper on occasion and one would have discovered the vast ‘richness’ of what this colorful place and its people; happy, fun and most importantly loving and compassionate  had to offer.

7 Lessons Learned on Compassion:

  • The poorest people (financially) tend to give the most.
  • Compassion is key to: humanity’s wellbeing; the wellbeing of all other sentient beings; and to the little green planet we all call home.
  • Compassion is a trait of great leadership.
  • Practicing self-compassion leads to compassion for others.
  • Compassion in action is unconditional love in action.
  • Choose thoughts, words and actions carefully especially when engaging vulnerable minds
  • Acts of compassion witnessed, inspire others to take action.

An Invitation:

Act with Compassion: Think Before You Speak or Take Action

Develop a personal practice of acting with compassion and empathy and bring awareness to your thoughts, words and planned actions. Practice pausing to consider how your thoughts, words and actions make you feel and how they may make others feel.  The following are resources which I have  included in the In-Leaders™ Toolkit.

  1. Read the blog post “Justin Trudeau Canada’s Prime Minister First Lesson To Politicians : Compassion Wins Humanity” it i.s a lesson for humanity.
  2. Do one small act of kindness daily.
  3. Watch Ted Talks about Positive Psychology, 10 Positive Psychology Ted Talks
  4. Reflect upon this healty dose of Sageocracy – words from the wise that stood out during my research:

A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” – Albert Einstein

[1] David Hackett Fischer (2006). Washington’s Crossing. Oxford UP. p. 446.


Daphne MacNeil  Leaders & Life Strategist In-Leaders™ Coach (MBSR  & MBTI)

Copyright © 2016 Daphne MacNeil





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