"It's the difference between day and night - between light and darkness. Pity is self-centered and compassion is altruistic.  When you pity someone you are merely feeling sorry for yourself and the other person is a reflection of some aspect that is your own. You don't see the person and don't respect them. You are not interested in them - you just want to free yourself of your own problem because you find the other person's suffering uncomfortable. They are mirroring your own suffering which you refuse to look at.
Tears of pity are superficial because their source is the mask of the benevolent and charitable one. This mask covers up selfishness and behind it lies a frosty, impenetrable layer that stops you from feeling empathy and truly putting yourself in the other person's shoes. You only empathise when there is love. If you love the other person you respect their need to go through certain experiences.
If you love people living on the streets, put yourself in their position and you will see that giving them money is no help at all. In some cases it may even help, but usually you are just feeding the vice of begging and the illusion of powerlessness, along with other fantasies that keep these people where they are. If love is overflowing from your heart and if you really do care about others, find a way to lift them up.
Compassion has no self-interest. It is when you honestly want to see the other person happy; you want to see them shine and you respect what they are going through. So how to move from pity to compassion? By freeing yourself of projection."

 
Sri Prem Baba

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