Skip to main content

Charter Education Institute

Essence of Compassion

On-demand courses by design are self-paced and can be taken anytime. You can access the course for at least 6 months. On-demand courses do not include interactions with an instructor.
This course normally costs $25.00. Register for this course during December 2023 and access this course at no charge!

Limited Time Course Cost: No Charge

Goals of the Course

  • Capture and analyze opinions,reflections and observations on compassionate theories and actions.
  • Create a personal definition of compassion that is informed by a variety of sources.

Objectives of the Course

  1. Use various forms of journaling and mapping to record expressed ideas on compassion.
  2. Dispel myths on survival verses compassion.
  3. Explore ideas that may challenge our wisdom on compassion and empathy.
  4. Determine a personal circle of compassion and then to consider what it means to work for a more compassionate and ethical world.
  5. Experience stories, music and art that may present a different perspective on compassion than one’s own feelings and thoughts about compassion.
  6. Consider the language of compassion and its important use in one’s own life.
  7. Analyze how compassion is the structural base for a sustainable and harmonious world.
  8. Review how compassion is a skill and reflect on how it can be practiced within one’s own life.


Lesson One: Exploring the Meaning of Compassion

Let’s start our journey of understanding compassion--weighing your own thoughts about the meaning of the word-- by and against those of others. The first activity is to begin listening and recording what you hear about compassion and within what context. This is followed by prompting your thinking about compassion by reflecting on three introductory statements made by the Dalai Lama, Karen Armstrong and Charles Darwin related to compassion. There is a more in-depth article on Darwin and what we have come to accept as a myth about what he truly meant by his often misquoted: "survival of the fittest." Finally, there is an article on seeing with the eyes of compassion--what we see and feel can sometimes become confusing. Throughout all of these activities you will be asked to write your own definition of compassion in your journal. Consider compassion: “what it is" and “what it isn’t.”


Lesson Two: Delving Deeper into Compassion

There is an academic adage implying that it is impossible to say everything that can be said about a topic. This is very true of "compassion." In this lesson we are going to consider how all living things are a part of one's personal circle of compassion, and then come face to face with what it means to work for a more compassionate and ethical world. This lesson will conclude with reflecting on how deep feelings of empathy can lead to caring and compassionate action.


Lesson Three: Notables Speak on Compassion

If you go to Goodreads (resources provided) you'll find that there are over 2500 quotes on compassion from writers, philosophers and historical figures. Challenging and insightful comments have been made by these figures - from Arthur Schopenhauer to Anne Frank. In this lesson you will experience a variety of statements that add to, or challenge, your personal definition of compassion. Undoubtedly, you will find several concepts to expand your thinking on compassion.


Lesson Four: Stories, Songs and Art Depicting Compassion Themes

Reading stories, listening to songs, and viewing art that addresses various themes of compassion, can directly (or indirectly) bring us closer to the true meaning of compassion. Throughout this lesson you will be working with material that originates from a variety of international sources, including historical and contemporary writers, artists and activists. Pay special attention to the "Resources" section to learn more about each of the people introduced through the activity.


Lesson Five: Essays on Compassion

The scope of the essays in this lesson are intentionally broad.  Each is important in its own right. Karen Armstrong instructs us on the compassionate and peaceful nature of Islam by quoting from the Koran. Paul Gilbert helps us understand why compassion isn’t easy, but necessary, and attainable. The renowned theorist of non-violent communication, Marshall B. Rosenberg, introduces us to the language of compassion, and hereditary Chief Phil Lane, Jr. of the Ihanktonwan Dakota and Chickasaw Nations, shares his guiding principles for building a sustainable and harmonious world.

We end this lesson with an essay by Maria Popova on Compassion and The Golden Rule, led off by Karen Armstrong’s award-winning TEDX talk, introducing her wish for a Charter for Compassion.


Lesson Six: Turning to Action

You will be asked to consider what your next steps will be after taking the course. There is a possibility of contributing to a growing list of videos that relate your stories of your compassion journey--solidifying what you have learned about compassion and the ways in which it is realized in our everyday lives.


About the Instructor

Marilyn Turkovich

Marilyn Turkovich started with the Charter for Compassion (CFC) in 2013 as the education director and since that time has moved into a number of different roles with CFC, and is now the Executive Director. Marilyn's background has been primarily in higher education and most specifically in directing teacher training programs for the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, and chairing Columbia College-Chicago's master's program in multicultural and global education. She has done a considerable amount of curriculum writing through the years, much of it related to international and cultural topics. She worked with Independent Broadcasting Associates on a series for airing on National Public Radio, BBC and the Australian Broadcasting companies. There was a period of time in the 1990s when she worked in organizational development and specialized in instructional design work, strategic planning and leadership development. She also wrote and developed training on race and social justice initiatives.