06/23/2014 09:25 am ET Updated Aug 22, 2014

Do You Know the Difference Between Sympathy and Compassion?

Frankly I didn't know there was a difference before I heard Jim Lockard speak.

The former cop who wrote "Survival Thinking" has moved into the spiritual sphere with his new book "Sacred Thinking."

I found Lockard's take on sympathy versus compassion intriguing since the fundamental difference between the two has eluded me all these years.

Here's how Lockard explains it:
When you're sympathetic you're saying "I'm sorry this has happened to you and I'm really glad I'm not you." On the other hand, when you're compassionate you're saying "I'm really sorry this has happened to you and it could have just as easily have happened to me."

In short when you're sympathetic you distance yourself from the other person, but when you're compassionate you send the message "we're deeply connected."

Semantics? You could argue that but I actually think Lockard makes an important point here and I'm grateful for his message. Compassion trumps sympathy every time because we can't truly be sorry for someone's misfortune unless we have a connection to that person and others.

So think it through. The next time someone confides their troubles, choose carefully and be sure to connect with compassion.