Saturday, August 13, 2011

Sympathy Or Compassion

While reading Oswald Chambers the other day, I was struck by how often we bring one another down with our sympathy. I have come to the conclusion that we as a whole tend to confuse sympathy and compassion.

I have been trying to sort this out in such a way that would make it easy for me to put into words. I am not sure if I have succeeded. Another word that is in this same category for me is empathy. I don't seem to be able to think of the other two without this one also.

Sympathy is sharing the feelings or emotions of another. The issue with sympathy is that it tends to spill over into gossip and can make us feel as though we are a victim depending on the circumstance. We also tend to use sympathy as a way to gain more information about a certain situation.

Empathy is more of an emotional understanding of another's situation. I think of empathy as more impersonal than compassion or sympathy. With empathy, you may have had a personal experience that allows you to really understand what another person is going through.

Compassion is a feeling of anguish for another along with a desire to help alleviate their suffering. You are sincere in your endeavors to help another in a painful situation.

I used to think that being a sympathetic person was a good thing. I thought I was conveying all the right things. Then I really started to think about the people involved. I realized that my sympathy was misplaced. There are people that just want to feed off of your sympathy. They are not interested in moving beyond the point they are in. I also realized that I was getting caught up in their saga and that is never a good thing.

I am learning to be more compassionate and empathetic without so much sympathy. It can be a very fine line between the three, but you can learn to distinguish between the three and covey what you truly mean without confusion.


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