My lovely and talented friend Robin (of Shameless Fashion) asked if I could discuss the difference between the words sympathy and empathy. They are both nouns and are often used interchangeably but they do, in fact, have different meanings and usage.
Sympathy is defined by the Oxford dictionary as “feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune,” a “formal expression of pity or sorrow for someone else’s misfortune,” or “understanding between people; common feeling.”
So sympathy involves feeling bad for someone about a tragedy or hardship that has befallen them. Here are some examples:
- I felt sympathy for the Easter Bunny, who had dropped his basket of eggs in the mud.
- We all sympathized with Mary Magdalen; it must have been difficult to wait for your husband’s resurrection.
Empathy, on the other hand, is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another” or “the action of understanding… and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another.”
So empathy involves actually experiencing and understanding the emotions of another living thing. Here’s an example:
- Jesus felt true empathy as he gazed upon the zombies. Resurrection was indeed hungry work!
- Timmy empathized with Molly; it really sucked to be allergic to chocolate.
Happy Easter everyone!