I have three treasures
I hold on to them and protect them
The first is called compassion
verses 7,8, and 9, Chapter 67 Tao Te Ching
Compassion is a conviction of love and kindness for another being. It is a virtue that comes from the heart. The Sovereign, as a spiritual being, recognizes the spirit in other living beings. Note that the sovereign does not discriminate in its recognition of other living beings. As human beings, we share the planet with a very large number of other beings, who just happen to dwell in a different body. The Tao is not exclusive to humans and an argument can be made that plenty of beings in the animal world are closer in unity with nature (Tao) than a lot of humanity. But at least for the beginner on the path, compassion (loving kindness) for other humans is a useful place to begin.
As discussed earlier, true virtues have inherent powers. The inherent power of compassion is true courage.
“compassionate, thus able to have true courage”, verse 12
It is important that you study an accurate translation of the Tao Te Ching. The character for compassion sometimes gets translated as “pity”. However, pity is too far off the mark and will not make sense when consideration of the deeper study of compassion especially when used in verse 12. The inherent power is revealed when you realize that true courage comes from compassion. Pity (feeling sorry for someone) and empathy are important, may focus more on victimization. When you insert the word pity instead of compassionate in verse 12, you can see where it falls short.
Example: Pity, thus able to have true courage.
True compassion can be seen easily when you think of a parent/child relationship. Better yet, is to consider the mother/child bond.
Courage is sometimes confused with bravado or showing off by doing something dangerous. 1 Courage by virtue of compassion can be seen when the mother comes to the defense of her child. It is not just a human attribute. This compassionate courage can be seen throughout nature. Just as a human mother will not hesitate to face great odds against her, mother in nature will do the same. The internet is full of videos showing animal mothers protecting their young against dangerous predators. Even in our own homes, you can see dog or cat mothers standing up for their babies against anything they feel is a danger. This is true courage and is sourced in the love and selfless compassion for their children. The inherent power of compassion is not limited to mothers. You too can practice compassion (loving kindness, caring) and realize the power of true courage.
So you can begin to see that compassion is a specific kind of love and caring. Love has several perspectives including self-love, romantic love, or adoration for a material thing. This type of love is for someone or others. It doesn’t have to be for your children or family, it can be for your community or country. It is having compassion, love, and kindness for other than yourself.
One more area of compassion to focus on.
“If one fights with compassion, then victory,” verse 20
Fighting here is not in the martial sense, but more as a metaphor for the battles or struggles in life. Courage to successfully get through life’s battles can be found when we are fighting for something important other than just ourselves. It is working hard, persevering and enduring so that others may benefit in a good way. When your efforts are grounded in the compassion of helping someone outside of yourself courage will empower you to stick with the effort and to endure. In a very simplistic perspective, true courage is not found in ego bravado, it is found the selfless caring of something other than yourself.
1See the Chapter True Courage, Chapter 16 for clarity on courage vs bravery