Compassion is an internal attitude that may manifest in our behavior. However, compassion is not the behavior itself, for one behavior can be done with different motivations. For example, we may take care of a sick relative because we have genuine affection for him. Conversely, we may care for him because we want to inherit his estate. The action is the same, but the motivations differ. The first motivation is prompted by genuine compassion, the second by self-concern.
Acting with compassion entails being creative and knowing that one behavior is not suitable for all occasions. In some circumstances, we may be compassionate by sharing our possessions; while in others, we may show it by saying, “no.” In this way, compassion must be combined with good judgment to be effective.
From An Open-Hearted Life by Russell Kolts and Thubten Chodron, page 15.