women 4 hope

Dedicated to addressing women’s issues.


Posted by Catherine Morgan on January 26, 2007


HAS THE WORLD LOST IT’S EMPATHY? — by Catherine Morgan

We all see the news, and feel badly about the wars, the starving, the homeless, the poor, and all the other sad things we are seeing on television. On a smaller scale, we all know people with hardships, going through divorce, struggling with health issues, having financial problems, and many other difficulties affecting our families and neighbors.

When we hear all these stories, we feel great sympathy and sadness. But, I think what we don’t do, is feel empathy. To feel empathy, you have to be able to put yourself in that other person’s shoes, and feel what they must be going through. True compassion comes from a place of empathy, not sympathy. In fact, most people don’t want our sympathy, and I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way. What I am saying is that people don’t want us to feel sorry for them, they want us to have compassion and empathy for them.

yasir ahmed
picture by © smrafiq

I’m pointing this difference out because, we need to see that without empathy our sympathy is just a judgement, and being judgemental is never helpful. When we can “truly” empathize with the hardships of our neighbors, our families, and others in our lives, we are then in a position of compassion and kindness towards them. Even if we are not in a position to alleviate the struggle of the person we are empathizing with, we will be conveying compassion towards them and not pity. While your pity is a judgement, your compassion is a kindness, and kindness is what we all need in our lives.

I would challenge you to look at your own life, and see where you are sympathizing without empathizing. Then allow yourself to feel the feelings. I’m not saying that this is an easy thing to do. Empathy, is most definitely the harder of the two feelings. But, when you can push yourself past sympathy alone, you are a better person, a better friend, a better neighbor, and so on, and so on.

On a larger scale, if the world can find it’s empathy, it won’t be in danger of losing it’s humanity.

picture by © ehirschenberger



  1. Diane said

    What an awesome post. I know exactly what you are talking about. While in therapy disclosing the horror I experienced as a child, being made to help my dad shoot eleven puppies to death, I felt pity from my therapist.

    I could not stand to to see the look in her eyes.

    You are dead on with your assessment, empathy is in short supply. My experience is that most people do not want to feel the pain of others. How different would life be, if people were not afraid of feeling?

  2. Thank you Daine. I’m glad you felt you could share your past experience openly, and I totally understand what you are saying. In fact, I think you almost have to have had an experience where someone felt “sorry” for you but didn’t “empathize” with you, to see the “real” depth of this problem.

    You are so right about people being “afraid”, that is what is at the route of this problem. Fear seems to dictate many of our actions these days….and nothing good comes out of fear. I’m happy and grateful that you didn’t allow fear to stop you from making this insightful comment, because it is a perfect example of the meaning behind this post.

    Thank you again for your comment. I hope you will come back. I am currently working on a post about; the empowerment that comes from adversity in our lives. It’s 1:00am here, but I am going to try and finish it up before I go to bed.

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