On Compassion

Jennifer Gravlee

I virtually watched a Dalai Lama Global Vision Summit this weekend on compassion. It was beautiful and it gave me a lot of information that I will use on my self journey, so I decided to compile my takeaways.

During the Summit, a story was shared about three priests in training that were given different Bible verses to study.  After a few days, they had to report to the head priest to discuss what they learned. One of the men had the parable of the Good Samaritan. On the way to their meeting time, each man passed a person who was suffering and in need of help. Not one man stopped, including the one who had just spent time studying the Good Samaritan parable. They were so fixated on time and not being late they did not notice others in need of help.

We are living in one of the highest stress times most of us have experienced, we are truly in a mental health pandemic. As stress rises, people tend to cling to "me." Unfortunately, this is also the time compassion is needed more than ever.

Three types of empathy

  • Cognitive empathy- Means you can communicate well with others because you can see their side of things, but it does not mean you have empathy.
  • Emotional empathy- Means you can feel what the other person is feeling, but does not always mean you have empathy.
  • Empathic concern- This is compared to a parents love for their child, but you are able to feel it for everyone. This is empathy.

Studies show when we get in stressful situations we turn off our empathy to soothe ourselves. We are taught that you can't have compassion for yourself AND others -- that you must choose one and that you are selfish if you choose yourself. In fact, it should be one in the same. You can and should have compassion for yourself AND others.

We should be educating our children on mindfulness, emotions and the process of how to make changes in the world. Stop just teaching them facts of a subject. You should act now in whatever way you can even if you do not live to see the fruit of your labor. (This is why I knew Aspen Academy was for me.)

How do we grow in compassion?

Spend at least 5 minutes a day meditating on loving kindness (you can find guided meditations on loving kindness) Be careful what you allow to occupy your thoughts and time.

Ask yourself these questions and write the answers down:

  • What gives you joy?
  • What is your mission and purpose?
  • What compassion action has meaning for you?

Now, live a life that aligns all three of those.

I want to leave you with one last analogy. If you are walking on a dark path, you turn on a flashlight to see things clearer and crisper. Studies of the brain have shown us that attention evolved because we had more information in our environment than the brain could handle. We are able to use our attention and focus on what interests us and does not bore us. You must use your “attention flashlight” and shine it on what you need to see clearer and you will have more clarity.

I challenge you and your students to spend 5 minutes each morning in meditation nourishing your mind.

For more on character and leadership development at Aspen Academy, click here.


About the Author

Jennifer Gravlee, Aspen Leadership Institute Coach

Jennifer was born and raised in Bartlett, Tennessee and graduated from the University of Memphis with a major in Elementary Education. She brings 7 years of teaching experience to Aspen and loves helping children grow and learn. She can best be described as energetic, outgoing, passionate and optimistic.



B.S., Elementary Education & Special Education, University of Memphis