What did love and compassion mean to Leo Tolstoy? Love and compassion was the center of his Christian spiritual beliefs. I'm currently reading "The Death of Ivan Illych," "Family Happiness," "The...

What did love and compassion mean to Leo Tolstoy?

 Love and compassion was the center of his Christian spiritual beliefs.

I'm currently reading "The Death of Ivan Illych," "Family Happiness," "The Kreutzer Sontana," and "Master and Man."

Expert Answers
Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his maturing years, Count Leo Tolstoy came to believe that a direct effort to develop an inner perfection in accord with Saint Paul's Christian writings was the true expression of the spirituality of Christianity. This belief presupposed (required) abandoning a reliance on the Russian Orthodox Church to give spiritual meaning and guidance.

The bedrock (firm foundation) of Tolstoy's beliefs was Jesus' Sermon on the Mount as recorded in the fifth chapter of The Gospel of Matthew and the sixth chapter of The Gospel of Luke. In it Tolstoy found the foundations for his convictions of love and compassion. In Matthew 5, verses 43 through 48, Jesus is recorded as saying, "Love your neighbors ...[and] love your enemies, and pray for them...For if ye love them that love you, what reward have ye?...Ye therefore be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Tolstoy therefore believed that love and compassion meant giving of himself in material ways, not simply in spiritual benedictions (blessings), and striving to be pure in his soul without greed, selfishness, pettiness, narrow-minded self-interest, etc. He stopped living an extravagant life style; he gave money and goods to the peasants attached to his ancestral lands and to other peasants; he advocated non-violent resistance and political arbitration. In fact, his book on pacifism The Kingdom of God is Within You was directly responsible for influencing Ganhdhi's pacifism. Tolstoy's love and compassion--not romantic love--showed in selflessness, generosity, humility, and pacifism.