Is sympathy and empathy a scam?

Is sympathy and empathy a scam?


Hello! Today we are going to talk about the most commonly confused term, which people use interchangeably.

Sympathy and empathy

Before reading about its definition and levels and factual part, it is important to learn it through an event. This will create a greater impact on one's mind.

Let us understand this concept with the help of an example.

Imagine there are three friends A, B, C. All three are 16 years old.

Now you guys know how much a mother loves her children; mother's love is priceless. Similarly, the Mother of the three loves their children very much, and they are very happy in their lives.

C lost her mother 3 years ago, B's mother has just died, and A's mother is alive. Both friends come to know about this sad incident, and they both go to meet B. Both A and C are very sad about their friend's tragic incident. A is also said that our friend has just lost his mother and he will be in a very upset state. A can understand his friend's pain perfectly well.

He is unable to see his friend unhappy. B is also very sad to see his friend unhappy. But don't you think that C's power to understand B's situation is very greater than A? Because he himself has gone through this incident.

At this stage, both A and C go to meet B. Now what A feels about B, we will say it sympathy, and what C feels about B will be empathy!

“The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy.” -Meryl Streep


This word derives from the Greek word 'pathos,' which means suffering or feeling. It means to feel the feeling or suffering of others. This concept is a somewhat old concept as compared to empathy.

We can define sympathy as the ability to feel other's suffering or pain. By other's, I mean any human, animal, bird, or even fictional character.

For example, if you saw a beggar on a highway, you start feeling bad for him.
Or if you saw an injured dog on the street, you even feel sad for that dog.

This is not limited to this only; even if you watch an emotional movie, then also you feel bad for those fictional characters of that movie. This ability to sense other's problems, their difficulties is called sympathy.

“You can’t truly heal from a loss until you allow yourself to really FEEL the loss.”
–Mandy Hale

God forbid, but imagine if any of your relatives have been diagnosed as diabetic last week. He or she also develops many complications due to this disorder. And now he or she is admitted to the hospital.

What feeling will you have?

You will definitely feel bad for him or her, but will you be able to understand their problems or pain?

No, you can have sympathy regarding them, but you can not empathize unless and until you suffer from the same.

This is how sympathy and empathy differ from each other. I hope now you are quite confident about sympathy.

Now, let us talk about empathy. I am sure might have got some hint regarding it.


This word derives from the Greek word 'pathos,' which means suffering or feeling. Earlier it used to mean pathetic fallacy.
Pathetic fallacy means to relate a human's feeling with the non-living things or animals, or nature. This is generally used in art and literature.

For example, a boy has just broken a heart in the relationship, and he is going back to his home, crying; at the same time, it suddenly starts raining, due to which he feels that God could not bear his pain too or unable to see him weeping! But let me make it very clear that now pathetic fallacy is not considered as a meaning of empathy.

Then what is empathy?

Let us discuss it in brief.

We can define empathy as the ability to understand other's moods or the mental state of others.
By other's, I mean any human, animal, bird, or even fictional character.

In the case of sympathy, you can feel other's pain, but you can not give any guarantee that you know other's exact suffering.
But, empathy is the guarantee that you can exactly understand other's feelings or moods of a person. But it is not always necessary to go through the problem to feel it. You sometimes realize their pain through keen observation.

"You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive." -James Baldwin

Therefore, for empathy, we say "putting your feet in the shoes of others."

Let us again take an example.

If you are going somewhere with your family. People are walking very quickly, but your father is walking very slowly. You are asking your father to be quick. Also, you started shouting, "hurry, papa," and listened and do not say anything. But even then, he is not able to walk fast, then you get fed up and ask him the reason.

He said, that son, there is some issue with my shoes to which you replied that it is okay, you give me yours and wear my shoes. You were even not able to walk that much, which your father was walking; you realize that he was not saying anything because your family's financial situation is not much so he wanted that all the expenses have been spent on your studies.
And, now you understand his pain.

This is what empathy is!

This you will get only if you suffer the same pain.

Only after perceptive taking, you will start realizing other's problems.

Empathy has three levels.

●Cognitive empathy.

This is the main part. Cognition means to know or to understand something or comprehension or to retain things in your mind. Our ability to understand something. It may be intellectual or conscious.

●Emotive empathy.

This includes that you not only understand someone's pain but also feel their issues or problems.

●Compassionate empathy.

This says that at this level, you not only understand or feel someone's pain or suffering of others but also you feel that you must help him or her to solve their problems.

These are three levels of empathy. Empathy is somewhat a new terminology as compared to sympathy.

“Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself.” -Mohsin Hamid

Now you are very clear about both the words. Use them appropriately.

Sympathize with people really boosts one's mood and helps them to get back on track. Also, empathize with people and help them in their goals.

Sympathy and empathy are not scams but a feeling to understand other's suffering.

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