Definition; Sympathetic, pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.
That's not good enough for me. Compassion should have a depth to it. If it was a texture it would feel like a brown, mackerel-marked Tabby. If it was a colour it would probably be Byzantium.
Strictly speaking is means 'suffer with', from the Latin 'Cum Passus'. In religious terms it is regarded as one of the greatest virtues. In Christianity God is the 'Father of All Compassion'. Islam, Buddhism, Judaism... they all have a reference.
I don't think it is a substitute word for sympathetic, kind or caring. It is spiritual. So, what chance has the staff nurse on ward F5, with a patient ratio of one to eight got? She has enough trouble moving patients from ward to ward without having to worry about moving her heart to the pain of a patient.
Can we cultivate compassion? Probably not. You can create an atmosphere of calm, you can encourage people who love their job to do their job. You can create the time and space for good people doing good things, to do even better things. Change, instability, unpredictability and volatility are the enemies of calm and constancy. Both of which are the foundation of a good workplace.
You can help people to be comfortable with their role in an organisation, in their space. You can make it clear they will be listened to and make time to do it. Spell out that the organisation's purpose is the relief of suffering; whether the suffering is crippling pain, fear or an itch that needs to be scratched.
Compassion doesn't do it for me. How can a young nurse with little experience of life 'Cum Passus', suffer-with, a terrified, dementing 90year old. How can a childless person 'Cum Passus' a family bereft at the death of their child. Few of us can 'Cum Passus' with an amputee or understand the life of a refugee or a rough sleeper.
How often do you hear; 'I know how you feel'. You can't know how 'I' feel. You might know how you felt when something pivotal happened in your life but that's all. You might be able to say; 'I can't imagine how you must be feeling; all I can say is when my Mum died, I felt terrible and I expect you do too'. That's empathy. It is not compassion but it is sensible and meaningful.
We can wish for the safety and happiness for other people but that's not compassionate. We can do everything we can to avoid pain, fear and sorrow but that's not compassion. It's professional.
We simply cannot share the dark inner recesses of other people's lives. To pretend we can, in the name of 'compassion' means the word has been hijacked and professionalised, sloganized, polished and devalued. We cannot share someone else's sorrow or fear but we can share our own, with them.
We can feel pity but I don't want pity. We could try sympathy, I don't want that either. Solicitude? No, it's patronising. I would quite like warmth. Love maybe? Can we do love on the NHS? What about a hug? Tenderness, gentleness? That works for me. I don't want charity.
There is a good word I do like; 'mindfulness'. Unfortunately it doesn't' start with a 'C' so the chief nurse won't like it but I do. Mindfulness means; in the moment. Mindfulness; being conscious, aware, non-judgemental and focussed. To be continuously present with experience and skill.
Mindfulness is something you can bring to work; it means paying attention. Being purposefully aware of ourselves. Hearing our own inner voice telling and asking is this the right thing? Would I want this for me and mine? Concentration; noticing what's going on. This patient isn't eating, this patient has no visitors, this patient is frightened of what the future might hold... and acting.
Compassion is a fad-word; it trips easily off the tongue. It's neat and smooth and not right. 'Smart-sympathy' might work but intelligent kindness is a whole new deal.