Today’s insight journey led me to the idea that it’s better to choose empathy over sympathy. The dictionary defines “sympathy” as “the fact or power of sharing the feelings of another, especially in sorrow or trouble.” And it defines “empathy” as “the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.” Now, on the surface these two nouns sound rather similar, but the difference between the two becomes more apparent when you consider the minute details.
Sympathy involves sharing or being aware of the feelings that another person is dealing with at any given moment. Whereas empathy requires an individual to personally identify with (i.e. have a personal connection to) the feelings that the other person is experiencing. In other words, when we sympathize with others we are demonstrating that we are aware of the existence of their feelings, but when we empathize with others we are conveying to them the fact that we are taking part in those feelings with them.
Yes, the difference between the two expressions is minute when considered on the surface, but there is no mistaking the two when they are put into practice. Empathy carries with it a level of relatability, warmth, and compassion that sympathy just does not possess. Now, I am certainly not admonishing anyone for extending sympathy to the people whom they encounter. But what I am doing is encouraging all of us to make a concerted effort to identify with and extend a greater sense of love and compassion to our fellow man. And if we commit to doing that, we just might change this world for the better after all. #lovebythedrop