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Gratitude, empathy, compassion, compassionate love.
The virtues of gratitude, empathy, and compassion are associated with various psychological and relational benefits. Past research suggests that gratitude and empathy are correlated and that compassion is in fact derived from empathy. However, limited research exists concerning the direct relationship between gratitude and compassionate love (i.e., a more enduring form of compassion). This study examined the relationship between the two constructs, with empathy as a potential mediator in this relationship. Two hundred undergraduate students from a religiously affiliated university were recruited and completed an online, multi-section questionnaire that includes measures of gratitude, empathy, and compassionate love. Statistical analyses revealed a significant partial mediation effect, with gratitude being both directly and indirectly (via empathy) associated with compassionate love. In other words, higher levels of gratitude produced greater compassionate love through increased feelings of empathy. Further analyses indicated that among the three types of empathy explored (cognitive empathy, emotional contagion, and emotional disconnection), cognitive empathy best mediated the relationship between gratitude and compassionate love. These findings have important implications in both a clinical and research context, including the utilization of gratitude and empathy interventions to increase protection against clinician burnout and improve client health and well-being. Future research is warranted in further exploring the relationship among these variables utilizing more objective forms of measurement.