Sympathy or Empathy...
Which do you prefer?
For most people it depends on the situation you are experiencing. Four months ago when I lost my dear Mother, received numerous sympathy cards. Many of the cards and notes included lovely poems, and kinds words to encourage me during my loss. Greetings came from friends, family, co-workers and church members and arrived in the mail, by email, and some were hand delivered. Cards came from persons I had not seen or talked to in a while. Some condolences came in the form of flowers or plants with a kind note attached.
Eventually, I read every note, card and letter and was grateful to those who had thought of me and taken the time to acknowledge their love and concern. The sympathetic thoughts and prayers were comforting for me and my family. Even now when I am sad, I grab my sympathy bag and read some of my favorite cards.
Sympathy: Acknowledging another person's emotional hardships and providing comfort and assurance.
I also received numerous phone calls and messages and a few handwritten notes from those who shared they could identify with what I was going through because, they too had lost their mother. Somehow, hearing from others who had experienced the same type of loss was especially comforting to me. Many shared their stories and how they were able to cope with the loss of someone so dear to their heart. They not only shared sympathy, they empathized with me.
Empathy: The ability to mutually experience the thoughts, emotions, and direct experience of others. It goes beyond sympathy. Understanding what others are feeling because you have
experienced it yourself or can put yourself in their shoes.
Both words are similar but have their differences. Either way, I was most appreciative of both.
Oil and perfume rejoice the hearts; so does the sweetness of a friend's counsel that comes from the heart. Proverbs 27:9
The love that was poured out to me in the loss of my Mother caused me to examine my response to others who have lost a loved one. Just this week I learned of another co-worker who lost her Mom. I made it a point to share both sympathy and empathy with her.
It is not only during the loss of a loved one that others may need sympathy or empathy. Maybe a friend who is going through a divorce or is experiencing problems on their job. It would mean the world to them if you shared a kind expression of encouragement.
Today, take inventory of the people in your life. Who could use a word of cheer from you? Think about it, who can you bless today?
Janice R Love, Author
First Lady, Mom, Stepmom and Divorce Ministry Coach