This is one of the most frequently asked questions and it’s important to develop a correct understanding.
His Holiness writes,
I think that there is often a danger of confusing compassion with attachment. So when we discuss compassion, we must first make a distinction between two types of love or compassion. One kind of compassion is tinged with attachment – the feeling of controlling someone, or loving someone so that person will love you back. This ordinary type of love or compassion is quite partial and biased. And a relationship based on that alone is unstable. But there is a second type of compassion that is free from such attachment. That is genuine compassion. That kind of compassion isn’t so much based on the fact that this person or that person is dear to me. Rather, genuine compassion is based on the rationale that all human beings have an innate desire to be happy and overcome suffering, just like myself. And, just like myself, they have the natural right to fulfill this fundamental aspiration.
The Essence of Happiness: a guidebook for living