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A few years ago a male friend of mine and I met for lunch. We were laughing, eating, and having a good time asfriends, as usual when we met up. After a while we started a friendly debate/conversation about men, women, and relationships. We joked about the different experiences we had and laughed about the mistakes we made along the way. Before this conversation ended, we brought up the subject of men and women as friends, and how both men and women have the tendency to misinterpret friendly gestures.

He told me that he was often discouraged to help a woman with certain things for fear of her taking the gentleman gesture the wrong way. “Just because a man opens the door for you or helps you with your grocery bags does not mean that he wants to sleep with you or engage in a relationship with you,” he said. “It simply means he was being nice.”

He also stated that a lot of women confuse compassion for passion. This was a powerful and thought-provoking statement that led me to ask myself if I was guilty of this. It also led me to examine the meaning of both compassion and passion as they relate to relationships. Compassion is a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for someone who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by the desire to alleviate such suffering. It is also the act of showing kindness with assistance. As it relates to relationships, passion is defined as a powerful or compelling emotion or feeling that can lead someone to fulfill desires led by the flesh; an instance or experience of love or strong sexual desire. While the meanings of the words have some similarities, they are very different.

Compassion leads someone to help someone else. It is the desire for someone else’s well-being and putting that desire into action. Passion is lust or the strong desire for someone for physical engagement for individual satisfaction. It is the urge to satisfy one’s own needs rather than helping someone else. However, the action of showing compassion can stir up feelings of passion. When someone renders a nice gesture or assists someone in a time of desperation, it can lead the mind to believe that this person has a romantic interest in them. These feelings can derive in women during the transition of relationships, a financial transition period, or a transition inself-esteem.

When self-esteem is low from a heart-wrenching relationship or a good relationship that ended abruptly, and someone new comes along and shows compassion to assist with the transition in a variety of ways, a vulnerable state of mind and fragility may come into play. This confusion and vulnerability can come into play because of inadequate self-confidence, in who we are as women, or the lack of knowledge in whom we are.

As women, it is important to know and understand the difference between compassion and passion when engagingin any type of relationship or encounter with men because we don’t want to mislead ourselves. On the other hand, the human ego can also be a factor in confusing compassion for passion. I remember a time when I was leaving the grocerystore, and I saw a man looking at me. I wasn’t sure as to why he was watching me, so I started to think that he was interested in me.

I remember I started thinking to myself that I didn’t have time to stop and talk, nor did I feel like being bothered. As I headed to my car the man approached me, and I immediately put my guard up to reject any romantic advance he was planning. He says to me, “Can I help you with your bags?” I respond with yes.  After he helps me place my bags in my car he says to me, “Have a good night!” and walks away. I thought to myself, What?!? To my egotistical surprise, the man wanted to help me place my bags in my car because he saw that I was alone and it was late at night. I quickly confused a nice gesture for a romantic advance. Inside I was so embarrassed, but that experience was the direct result of my ego taking over my common sense and confusing compassion for passion. As I stated previously, it is important to know the difference between compassion and passion especially when dealing with men because we don’t want to mislead ourselves into believing that a man wants a relationship with us, have sex, so on and so on. We must learn to take nice gestures for what they are and leave them at that because the bottom line is, if a man wants to be with you he’ll let you know. Let’s learn how to appreciate the gentlemen things men do and encourage them to do more!

How many times have you confused compassion for passion? What were the results?

Liz Lampkin is the author of Are You a Reflection of the Man You Pray For? Follow her on Twitter @Liz_Lampkin.