Empathy versus Sympathy


Although these words are often used interchangeably but I would like to explain the differences between these two words. Sympathy is defined as “feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune”. This is a noble feeling to express to let someone know that you feel bad for the things that they have experienced or are currently experiencing. Being sympathetic to people who are less fortunate than you are, or even from a different socioeconomic background can enrich your life in ways you can’t imagine.


Empathy on the other hand is defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another”.

I like to define empathy as “sympathy plus an act which attempts to alleviate the cause of pain”. Empathy moves you to action it is an emotion which will haunt. It will intrude your thoughts at the most inopportune moments. It forces you to match your compassion with and action. It is indeed a more noble feeling compared to sympathy. Here is a list of my favorite quotes about empathy.

The challenge of course with empathy is the fact empathy comes with a cost. It will demand something of you and it may force you to reexamine your view on certain topics. I believe that one of the most valuable things I could ever do as a mother is to raise compassionate children. This is one of my goals in life and part of my strategy to achieve this goal is to spend more time with my children. Secondly, I have made a resolve to teach my children how to care about people from different cultures and different backgrounds and part of that strategy is to learn more about different cultures together as a family.

At the center of any discussion about empathy, sympathy or compassion is the old biblical adage which is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

I recognize  that we are all overworkedover exposed and over stimulated today but if you liked this article, consider liking it and sharing it with a friend, family member, colleague, hater or frenemy!

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5 thoughts on “Empathy versus Sympathy

  1. Good points, though I think that instead of looking at empathy as coming “at a cost” we can see it as coming “as a growth” … Change is inevitable and facing realities we have failed to see or understand before may well end up giving us more than it seems to ‘take away’ from our (perceived) status quo.
    Here’s to empathy, compassion, and the potential in humanity to grow beyond the ignorances of the past and the fixed ideas these led to.

    Liked by 1 person

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