Created By: Earnest on August 19, 2012 Last Edited By: Earnest on August 21, 2012


Sympathy for another coupled with a desire/action to help.

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In stories, the presence and absence of compassion reveals the inner nature of both the (un)compassionate and the object of their compassion. Characters who lack of compassion have No Sympathy for others, and tend think It's All About Me instead. Those who show compassion are usually The Heart of a group, though again, since compassion is born from sympathy, anyone is capable of demonstrating it. On the flip side, characters who are met with only callousness, bullying or suspicion are pushed to extremes which can manifest as turning to villainy... or forgiving their accusers of their ignorance and trying to change their minds through heroism.

Showing a villain or mook Compassion can induce a Heel–Face Turn as they find someone willing to look past appearance/sins and see someone worth caring for... or it can backfire horribly like the parable of The Farmer and the Viper, proving that you should Pay Evil unto Evil. Heroes with bad PR (or Anti Heroes in general) may change their mind about helping the Adventure Town full of hostile locals if it has a single Good Samaritan willing to help them when they're down.

The power of compassion is a lot like The Power of Love; a compassionate character can reach another who is considered too far gone to help and bring them peace through a well articulated speech and Cooldown Hug. The speech is usually focused on what they got the least of, such as You Are Not Alone for the Loner, or You Are Better Than You Think You Are to the downtrodden. Even villains are capable of compassion, and may gain the undying loyalty of minions through it.

See also Did You Think I Can't Feel?, Video Game Caring Potential and Cry for the Devil. Contrast No Sympathy. Compare Pitying Perversion.


Film - Animated
  • In How to Train Your Dragon, Hickup's act of compassion when sparing Toothless (who he realized was just as frightened as he was) led to a growing understanding of dragon nature leads to sympathy and finally compassion, he wants to protect them not just from his fellow Vikings but also the huge green dragon that controls the smaller dragons.
  • The main message of ParaNorman is one of overcoming fear and showing compassion. Because of his unique viewpoint (being able to talk to ghosts, treated as an outsider) he manages to save the day by realizing the zombies are just as much victims as Agatha, and sets out to help both groups rather than simply keep the cycle of putting Agatha asleep for a year.

Community Feedback Replies: 5
  • August 19, 2012
    Also see Video Game Caring Potential, for games that induce this in their players.
  • August 20, 2012
    I think this is too close to People Sit On Chairs. There's no point in troping emotions that are near-universal.
  • August 20, 2012
    Best to make it an index of tropes about compassion.
  • August 20, 2012
    Compassion as a character trait can be a trope.
  • August 21, 2012
    ^That's what I'm hoping for with this YKTTW. We already have tropes for Pride and Forgiveness, and one for compassion seems only natural since it can play a central role for characters and in a narrative.