Sympathy (or is it Empathy)

I’ll take someone any day of the week who can “empathize” with me.

em·pa·thize

ˈempəˌTHīz/

verb

understand and share the feelings of another.

I am not a fan of “sympathy” unless a person or pet has past away. 

sym·pa·thize

ˈsimpəˌTHīz/

verb

1.  feel or express sympathy.

2. agree with a sentiment or opinion.

To sum up the differences between these most commonly used terms: sympathy is feeling compassion (or pity) for the hardships that another person encounters, while empathy is putting yourself in the shoes of another.

It amazes me when someone says they don’t have the ability to be compassionate, sympathetic or empathetic. Maybe it was the household I was raised in. Maybe it is/was the women in my life who raised me. Either way I was raised to give my last penny to someone who needs it or the last hour of my day, no matter how tired I am, to take care of someone else first. This is empathy – helping another because I know what it’s like to need help. 

Recently I broke down and asked for help. I am not one to normally do this. 

I take care of my life period. 

After so many years of asking for help – time and time again (money, medical reasons, mental health problems, physical problems) – I have had my mind set for 7 years to take care of things on my own. I was resigned to not ask for help from anyone, ever again.

When I recently needed help due to unforseen circumstances, I tip-toed around what I needed, vented here and there and tried to manage on my own. It wasn’t until I was in fear of losing everything that I asked for help. I was afraid everyone would sympathize and not understand what I was going through, so I never came out and really asked. 

What bothers me about asking for help is it makes me feel weak and like I am a failure in many ways. There are a magnitude of reasons why I am this way, but that is another blog post. 

Another part of this that really gets to me at my core, is how, as ahuman, when you see someone suffering, albeit sick, tired, in pain, crying or silently struggling, how you can’t empathize with them at all.

Are you saying that never in your life have you ever:

  • Felt alone
  • Needed money
  • Had a problem
  • Were worried, anxious or depressed
  • Wanted a hug
  • Needed help with your kids/family
  • Reached your rock bottom and felt trapped

At any of those times did you chose to just keep to yourself, longing for help, or did you reach out and ask for help?  Which was easier? Was one outcome better than the other?

When a person is telling you their problem, dig deep.  Don’t always change the subject. Listen, find that time you felt the same way, or almost the same way. Don’t just ignore and move on, that breaks down trust and pushes the other person away. 

We (I) have the ability to be sympathetic when something bad or wrong happens to another.  A death, critical illness or anything bad that nobody may understand, but wants the other person to know we care. This is commonplace. 

We (I) have the ability to be empathetic and show real compassion by digging deep and using feelings to relate to the other person, the same way we (I) could relate to them if they shared something we (I) had experience in.

What do you chose when a family member or friend is suffering? 

Are you a sympathetic or empathetic person?

I continue to do both. When I can’t empathize, because I haven’t been in the others shoes, I am sympathetic and compassionate. 

It can be draining and sometimes plain exhausting. 

It’s a vicious circle, one that I keep going in, time and time again. However I do it because I am human and hope that one day, when I need sympathy or empathy, another will be there for me. 

Which do you chose?

3 thoughts on “Sympathy (or is it Empathy)

  1. I try my best to be an empathetic and compassionate person. Everyone has their own struggles. It’s not for me to fix them, but just to understand that people are always going through different things and have their own reasons for being the way they are.

    Like

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