Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Sympathy Versus Empathy: Which One Should You Use?

Empathy is good for the soul, sympathy is not.  Empathy is often explained as 'walking a mile in someone else's shoe' and it is a good analogy.  Empathy is a skill we use to better understand the inner workings of other people.  It provides us with insight into how the other person must be feeling, and we can therefore treat each other accordingly.  With empathy and understanding we become much less judgmental.

Sympathy on the other hand is our attempt to 'feel' what the other person is feeling.  It is an easier emotion to use because it is much easier to feel another's suffering as opposed to taking the time and insight to understand the feeling.  For years we have been offering sympathy to others, especially in the loss of a family member or friend.  People don't need our sympathy, but they sure could use our empathy.

The more we understand others and empathize with their afflictions and emotions, the better we will treat each other.  When we take time to realize the personal suffering the other person is dealing with, the more we will attempt to ease it rather than add to it.  When we give our sympathy to another, we are simply choosing to feel bad for them, and feeling sorry for people can be severely enabling of their negative thoughts and feelings.

Showing others understanding gives them a feeling of support, and that is exactly what any sufferer of an invisible illness needs.  We may not be able to see the illness but the symptoms are surely there.  Even if you can't see the illness, you can certainly see the effects it is having on the person who is suffering.  It is very real to them, and for the most part, they will benefit from your empathy and understanding, not your sympathy.

I see sympathy in a similar way as worry, it has no real positive purpose.  Taking on the feelings of another does little or nothing to help them in any way, except to make the sufferer feel that they not alone in their feelings.  Empathy will provide more understanding and support, and both people will feel better.

Empathy grows much more rapidly in people who are suffering or who have suffered.  The more we suffer though mental and physical health issues, the stronger we will become if we promote our own personal empathy skills.  Don't feel sorry for people, understand them.  It is much easier to judge others when we offer sympathy and 'feel' like they do.  With empathy and understanding, judgment disappears.

If you are looking for a little help finding your own inner peace, and a way to set you on a positive path for your own soul or spirit, then learn about empathy and what it can do for you.  When we stop judging others, we stop judging ourselves as well.

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