July 18th 2020
Sympathy Vs Empathy
I did a program about this a few weeks ago and it really stuck around in my brain and even had a few debates with other people, I want to talk about it and give my best view on it.
“Sympathy Drives Disconnection” a quote from Brene Brown on a video that was presented in the program about this topic. I had to really look at this because I thought to myself, “What? How? I sympathize people all the time, I throw that word around like it was nothing,” I also threw around the word Empathy when I thought it was appropriate. When I dived into a little research around these two words and what they really meant, I reconsidered throwing them around freely anymore and started making a choice to use the word Empathy.
Sympathy by definition is, “Feeling of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.” I didn’t know that. I seen a homeless person yesterday at Starbucks ordering a drink for himself, I wasn’t near him, he looked haggard and dirty. These are all obvious signs right? I guess I could say I sympathized for him because I felt pity for the fellow. It’s easy to say that because I lead such a ravishing lifestyle…. I think not. I once was homeless last year, I was staying at a men’s shelter and my story was getting over my addiction, I think back and I always had a backpack with stuff and I wasn’t dressed well at times and seeing it from that point view or perspective, people had to have looked upon me with pity. I didn’t want that, I got myself there and I was making choices to get out of that situation. I did not want pity for myself and that guy was able to buy a coffee so maybe he was ok at that point, a total assumption on my part because I could’ve asked him however I was meeting with my counsellor.
Empathy by definition is, “The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” Now like I said, I didn’t go up to the guy and share anything because he did have a foul odor of excrement coming from him I soon found out however having been homeless at one point in my own life I did understand and share a feeling of being in that situation. At that point I was grateful to see him buying a coffee at Starbucks of all places rather than buying some cheap vodka from the liquor store just a 2 minute walk away.
Sympathy is not all bad though, I won’t take that away. When you hear of cancer taking away a father from his wife and three kids through people at work, sure sympathize “that,” however if you’ve ever been through that scenario with someone in your life and I’m sure I can safely assume that we’ve been through something like that with someone in our lives, show empathy for “them”.
I hope you seen how I emphasized “That” and “Them,” I wanted to show the importance that sympathy is usually an “acknowledgment” surrounding the subject and empathy is more “understanding” to you.