The passion – compassion – pity – contempt chain

This month, Philip reflects on the natural life cycle of relationships, from their birth in passion to their potential, or inevitable, decay – and how we can best respond to this.

Most close relationships — be they parental, friendships, intimate or professional — begin with passion. We see all the good things — the cuteness, the interesting ideas, the good looks, the skills, the strengths.

As the relationship matures and develops, we need to bring in compassion. This allows us to understand and excuse the naughtiness, the lateness, the strange habits, the occasional inflexibility, the weaknesses.

Relationships based on passion and compassion are healthy, useful, balanced. We are human.

But if the qualities that require compassion increase or amplify — and the passion-inducing qualities decrease or weaken — the balance tips. Compassion becomes pity (sorrow for another’s misfortune or suffering) or contempt (scorn or disregard).

I see a lot of relationships based on pity and/or contempt. I think they’re unhealthy, useless, imbalanced. They may even be inhumane, for both parties.

There are only two solutions:

  1. Negotiate more qualities in the relationship that invoke passion and compassion.
  2. End the relationship.

Relationships grow and decay. Promoting growth is optimistic. Resisting decay is pointless.


This blog was originally posted on  It has been reposted on DPSN with permission.

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