E – Empathy – and Lack Of

Empathy (software)

Empathy (software) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Empathy is described as: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also: the capacity for this in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

A lot of people are able to sympathize, however, empathy is a little deeper than sympathy.  To sum it up: empathy is the ability to relate or ‘walk in someone else’s shoes’ where Sympathy is feeling sad, sorry or bad for someone.  Now, you  might not be one to mix these two up, but I know plenty of people who have.

I learned about empathy in drug & alcohol classes in college (the irony, right) and that lesson flipped a light on in my head.  In order to be good with people, empathy goes a long way.  This is true when dealing with alcoholics, addicts and the mentally challenged.  This also holds true when dealing with someone who has a story that is hard to grasp.

I’d like to say that after the mountains of crap I’ve climbed in my life that I am one of the most empathetic beings on the planet.  I can be; but not always.  I’m human, therefore I judge.  It happens and it is sad but I owe it to myself to be honest with myself and my readers.  There will be no sugar-coating on this blog… ever.

And here is the scary thing about empathy.  It cannot be taught.  It is something inherent inside of most beings, and other beings lack the trait.  Still, others, like me, are empathetic at times and other times think things like:

  • you got what you deserved.
  • I cannot relate.
  • I’ve heard it a million times.
  • that is not an excuse.
  • suck it up.

And who of us hasn’t thought these things when listening to another’s woes? We might think it about the mother who is a stripper, the father who has a hard time paying child support or the screaming boss.  It happens.

What is your experience with sympathy vs. empathy?

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