Not everyone is equally compassionate.
Caring about the lives of others is a special blessing and can also be a burden.
Here are the top indicators that you’re more compassionate than most.
1) You notice the problems of others
The first step to any kind of compassion is being observative.
Many people have a fairly low level of compassion simply because they don’t notice or ask about the problems of others.
Although we may criticize those who aren’t very compassionate and say they are selfish or ignorant, the truth is that many simply aren’t very perceptive about what others may be going through.
Having deep compassion starts with you noticing what others are going through, even if it’s just somebody in a low mood, or another person who’s very anxious about their health all of a sudden.
You notice, and you care.
2) You feel real emotional pain at the suffering of others
Deep compassion is about far more than being “nice.”
In fact, you may find that you sometimes wish you weren’t so compassionate and sometimes it can really be a burden.
You feel real emotional pain and sometimes even physically wiped out and exhausted by the suffering of others.
You find yourself almost in tears at meeting a very overworked and low-paid laborer or a drug addict with untreated mental health problems.
It’s not just that you care, it’s that you feel real pain at what other people are going through.
3) You’re empathetic to people who are having a bad day
When you meet folks who are having a terrible day, you feel genuine sympathy.
It’s not even that you analyze why they’re having a bad day or whether it’s a justified reason for them to be down.
You just hate to see anyone spending any of this short life down in the dumps.
You feel a real urge to make a difference, even if it’s just small.
You feel like making the depressed old man at the gas station checkout smile, even if the only joke you can think of is incredibly stupid.
You want folks to have at least a spot of sunshine in their day!
This ties into the next point…
4) You want to make a positive difference in the world
Having deep compassion starts with noticing what people around you are going through.
You don’t like to see anybody having a truly bad day.
More widely, this compassionate instinct is very connected to your response to suffering in the world.
You have felt awful pain before and you feel pained by seeing it around you in world events, conflict, hunger, environmental destruction and injustice.
You want to make a change for the better and link up with others who do, too.
On that note…
5) You link up with likeminded people who also care about helping
When you see problems in the world, you want to band together with those who also care and make a difference.
Whether those are NGOs, charities, faith-driven relief efforts or various other projects, you’re on the lookout for folks who also have your same drive to serve the suffering.
This compassion may take you to other countries or other neighborhoods in your own city.
It may bring you in touch with people of different faiths and cultures going through intense trials, or it could bring you more deeply in touch with abuse and injustice among your family and culture that need to be addressed.
6) You’re involved in volunteering
Above average compassionate people often get involved in volunteering.
After all, this can be one of the best ways to give back to people who are more in need than you are.
It’s also a way to use your time to make the world an overall better place.
When you’re highly compassionate, you volunteer because you can.
You find a cause close to your heart and you get involved, whether it’s close at home or in a land far away.
But you don’t do it for the spotlight.
Which brings me to the next point…
7) You don’t seek recognition or praise for helping people
I’ll be a little controversial here, and not in order to judge but just in order to make a point.
There is a certain type of compassion that’s ego-based. I call it performative compassion.
This often has a lot of hashtags and well-placed photos of various great things you’ve been involved in.
You want everyone to know, and you enjoy that little buzz when people say “Wow, you’re a really good and compassionate person!”
This can include such things as “volunteer-tourism” where you go volunteer somewhere “less fortunate” mostly for the buzz it gives you and your idealized version of the suffering of others.
The truly compassionate person, by contrast, may indeed volunteer or help people who are suffering.
But you don’t do so for accolades or self-righteousness. You do it because you truly want to make a difference.
8) You’re willing to be a shoulder to cry on for friends
When you have above-average levels of compassion you’re there for friends in their hour of need.
You take care of yourself and you know your limits, but you’re not begrudging with your time and compassion.
You’re willing to be a shoulder to cry on.
And even those problems that you’ve never experienced or that you can see are partly your friends’ faults, you have compassion because you know that so often we do the wrong thing and let ourselves down.
Those who may seem like idiots for the mistakes they make are actually only one or two mistakes further than we could easily be one day, after all.
9) You have patience and grace for those who need time alone
At times, friends and loved ones don’t need a shoulder to cry on, they just need time alone.
There are times that the best antidote to a crisis is some solitude. As a compassionate person, you fully realize that.
Whether it’s a friend, family member, or romantic partner, you’re able and willing to back off and give them some space when needed, even if you don’t quite know why it’s necessary at the time.
10) You hold back from judging those who’ve made life mistakes
The issue of judging others is a big one.
There are times that it’s necessary, for example in stopping a partner from abusing you or in judging a friend who’s overusing drugs and ruining his health.
But when it comes to errors that people have made, you don’t like to pass a strict verdict on it.
This is especially true if it’s something the other person has already repented of.
There’s just no reason to rub salt in the wound of somebody who’s made mistakes and suffered.
Ultimately we’re all in the same boat and none of us is getting off this ride completely unscathed.
11) You’re able to navigate the fine line between tough love and harshness
There is a time to judge or to put your foot down, as I said.
If you’re a parent then you have times when it’s necessary to discipline your kids or withhold treats and permission from them due to bad behavior, for example.
But one of the marks of a compassionate person is that you’re able to be strict and enforce discipline without being vindictive about it.
Your tough love has real love in it, not just toughness!
12) You want for others what you also want for yourself
Ultimately, compassion is about reciprocity.
It’s the exact opposite of jealousy because rather than comparing what you do have or don’t have, you’re more focused on what you can give.
When you’re deeply compassionate you want for others what you want for yourself.
When you fall deeply in love and are happy in romance you don’t say “I won and they lost, yes!”
You say, “I wish everyone could have this.”
And you really mean it.
Can you make yourself care more?
Becoming more compassionate is certainly possible.
The most effective way is to focus on what you can do for others, rather than forcing or pressuring yourself to feel some kind of emotional reaction.
Kindness may be undervalued in some parts of today’s world and its online echo chambers, but in real life, kindness is incredibly crucial.
Finding ways to walk in everyone else’s shoes is part of an incredible journey of becoming stronger, more observant, and more effective in the real world.
Finding ways to get involved, help out, and pay attention to the problems and needs of others ultimately brings you so much more than any material gain.