Mercy vs. Compassion

By Jaxson

Main Difference

The main difference between Mercy and Compassion is that the Mercy is a broad term that refers to benevolence, forgiveness, and kindness and Compassion is a love.

  • Mercy

    Mercy (Middle English, from Anglo-French merci, from Medieval Latin merced-, merces, from Latin, “price paid, wages”, from merc-, merxi “merchandise”) is benevolence, forgiveness, and kindness in a variety of ethical, religious, social, and legal contexts.

    The concept of a merciful God appears in various religions, including Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Performing acts of mercy as a component of religious beliefs is also emphasized through actions such as the giving of alms, and care for the sick and Works of Mercy.

    In the social and legal context, mercy may refer both to compassionate behavior on the part of those in power (e.g. mercy shown by a judge toward a convict), or on the part of a humanitarian third party, e.g., a mission of mercy aiming to treat war victims.

  • Compassion

    Compassion motivates people to go out of their way to help the physical, mental or emotional pains of another and themselves. Compassion is often regarded as having sensitivity, an emotional aspect to suffering, though when based on cerebral notions such as fairness, justice, and interdependence, it may be considered rational in nature and its application understood as an activity also based on sound judgment. There is also an aspect of equal dimension, such that individual’s compassion is often given a property of “depth”, “vigour”, or “passion”. The etymology of “compassion” is Latin, meaning “co-suffering.” Compassion involves “feeling for another” and is a precursor to empathy, the “feeling as another” capacity for better person centered acts of active compassion; in common parlance active compassion is the desire to alleviate another’s suffering.

    Compassion involves allowing ourselves to be moved by suffering, and experiencing the motivation to help alleviate and prevent it. An act of compassion is defined by its helpfulness. Qualities of compassion are patience and wisdom; kindness and perseverance; warmth and resolve. It is often, though not inevitably, the key component in what manifests in the social context as altruism. Expression of compassion is prone to be hierarchical, paternalistic and controlling in responses. Difference between sympathy and compassion is that the former responds to suffering with sorrow and concern while the latter responds with warmth and care.

    The English noun compassion, meaning to love together with, comes from Latin. Its prefix com- comes directly from com, an archaic version of the Latin preposition and affix cum (= with); the -passion segment is derived from passus, past participle of the deponent verb patior, patī, passus sum. Compassion is thus related in origin, form and meaning to the English noun patient (= one who suffers), from patiens, present participle of the same patior, and is akin to the Greek verb πάσχειν (= paskhein, to suffer) and to its cognate noun πάθος (= pathos). Ranked a great virtue in numerous philosophies, compassion is considered in almost all the major religious traditions as among the greatest of virtues.

  • Mercy (noun)

    Relenting; forbearance to cause or allow harm to another.

    “She took mercy on him and quit embarrassing him.”


  • Mercy (noun)

    Forgiveness or compassion, especially toward those less fortunate.

    “Have mercy on the poor and assist them if you can.”

  • Mercy (noun)

    A tendency toward forgiveness, pity, or compassion.

    “Mercy is one of his many virtues.”

  • Mercy (noun)

    Instances of forbearance or forgiveness.

    “Psalms 40:11 Do not withhold Your tender mercies from me, O Lord”

  • Mercy (noun)

    A blessing; something to be thankful for.

    “It was a mercy that we were not inside when the roof collapsed”

  • Mercy (verb)

    To feel mercy

  • Mercy (verb)

    To show mercy; to pardon or treat leniently because of mercy

  • Mercy (interjection)

    Expressing surprise or alarm.

    “Mercy! Look at the state of you!”

  • Compassion (noun)

    Deep awareness of the suffering of another, coupled with the wish to relieve it.

  • Compassion (verb)

    To pity.

  • Mercy (noun)

    compassion or forgiveness shown towards someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm

    “the boy was screaming and begging for mercy”

    “the mercies of God”

  • Mercy (noun)

    an event to be grateful for, because it prevents something unpleasant or provides relief from suffering

    “his death was in a way a mercy”

  • Mercy (noun)

    (especially of a journey or mission) performed out of a desire to relieve suffering

    “mercy missions to refugees caught up in the fighting”

  • Mercy (interjection)

    used in expressions of surprise or fear

    “‘Mercy me!’ uttered Mrs Diggory”

  • Compassion (noun)

    sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others

    “the victims should be treated with compassion”

Oxford Dictionary

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