Sympathy, Empathy or Compassion?
Updated: Jul 14
When we see others struggling and want to help, it is so important to be aware of how we are approaching them - with sympathy, empathy or compassion. This makes all the difference in how our energies interact and the outcome for each person. So, how can we tell the difference?
Sympathy implies that we are superior to the other. We do not see ourselves in the other. In fact, it can be a defense against the truth that their suffering is our suffering. When we approach with sympathy, we feel sorry for the other and don't believe they can solve the problem themselves. We try to caretake and solve it for them. This is not only disempowering, but impossible! We each have our own paths and challenges, and even if it looks like we have solved another's problem, in the long run they will continue to encounter the same type of challenge until they meet it themselves.
Sympathy is like our friend is down in a hole and we take all the responsibility for pulling them up while they just hang there.
This is common in parent/child relationships. No one wants to see their child suffer! We want to fix it, make everything ok. I know I have to frequently remind myself that my daughter has her own path and lessons to learn. She is going to experience pain, and that is ok! If we meet our challenges in life, it makes us stronger, teaches us about what it means to be human, shows us what we are capable of.
Empathy is one step closer, but almost too close! We see our friend in the hole and we jump down there with them. Maybe they don't feel so alone, but now we are both in the hole! When we approach with empathy we take the problem into our energy system as our own. Now, in a way, we both have the same problem, and neither of us can hold the bigger perspective necessary to solve it. We believe in the stuckness of the issue, that it is unsolvable.
Compassion says that we understand their struggle because we have also struggled. It also says that we have confidence in their ability to solve their problem. This makes all the difference. We can offer help without taking it on. Our friend is down in the hole, and we say, "Ugh, that sucks, I have been there. But I know you can figure a way out. How can I support you?" There is a heart connection, an affinity because we are all human. And it is also empowering. This is the magic combination.
Every one of us has been on the receiving end of all these too. We know how bad it feels to be pitied, how unhelpful empathy alone is, and how compassion can heal our hearts and lift us up. Being aware of how we meet our loved ones that are struggling is a gift to them and ourselves.
Each one of these has different energetic patterns including energetically carrying other people's issues. If you want help clearing these cords, blocks and patterns so that you can move through life more lightly and clearly, please contact me for a healing session.