Let us fathom a difference among sympathy, empathy, and compassion.
Sympathy is to feel sorry for others’ misfortunes, to feel pity for someone’s pain and plight.
When you raise the level of sympathy feeling what others are going through, it is Empathy. Empathy is a more intense feeling than sympathy where you sense the pain of others by stepping into their shoes.
If empathy is to feel the pain of others by stepping into their shoes, Compassion is to walk wearing those shoes. It is the conversion of feelings into action, doing something to relieve their pain.
As it comes:
You are fortunate if you can sympathize. Others’ plight does not affect everyone. Kudos! Humanity prevails within you.
But is it enough?
No, it’s not. With sympathy comes responsibility, responsibility to convert those feelings into actions. Sympathy only cannot solve their problems.
My dear friend, sympathy leading to empathy, and empathy leading to compassion is a process, which must be completed. It may not be possible every time but trust me, it is possible most of the times.
You can always extend either your tangible or intangible support.
Let us assume two instances from daily life, one seeking tangible support and the other seeking intangible support. Let’s find out whether you are sympathetic, empathetic or compassionate?
The instance seeking your intangible support…
Not only you are surrounded by life but also death surrounds you. Let’s be practical. Someone known to you dies once in a while. And in this situation, feeling sympathetic about the loss sitting at your home is not doing any good to the ones who lost their loved one.
If you feel bad about it, go to them and express your sympathy. Trust me, even a few encouraging words is an act of compassion here.
It is because this is the best you can do in this situation. No one can overturn this unfavorable situation. But what you can offer here is your intangible support.
Never refrain from showing up to people experiencing these situations. Sink into the mind that people acknowledge your face in a funeral more than in a celebration.
If they are facing it today, it can be you tomorrow. If you need shoulders, offer a shoulder first.
The instance seeking your tangible support…
You see an old disabled person; worn clothes, as skinny as a rail, helplessly lying down on the roadside.
Instinctively, you feel sympathy towards him. ‘Cruel life,’ you mutter to yourself. A few thoughts of kindness follow your ongoing feelings.
Dear friend… You are right until now. But the problem is you change thereon…
You start putting allegations as per your convenience… on God, destiny, government, country, people, and so on. Ironically, you blame everyone for their plight except yourself.
You feel lighter because you think you bailed yourself out of that situation. Sorry but to say the least, you step back at the action time. It is the same case when you want the street drains clean after throwing garbage inside it.
Next day, you come across the other incident of the same genre and repeat the same process.
Sorry but this is happening with most of us!
- Are you not guilty?
- Do you have the right to play the blame game?
- Is your sympathy or empathy doing any good to them if the subsequent action is not compassion?
- Are you walking after stepping into their shoes?
- Are you not running away from your human obligations?
If you are silent on these questions, your silence is the answer.
A few heartfelt realizations:
You need to feel both happy and sad looking at them…
Feel happy because you are blessed.
Feel sad because somebody is going through it.
But in case of both the feelings, never hold yourself back at the action time, which is compassion.
Do you realize if you are not following compassion, you are suffering?
A big realization coming up…
When you don’t convert your sympathy or empathy into compassion, it leads to self-harming thoughts and actions.
Yes, it is not only the sufferer who suffers. The non-expressiveness of sympathy becomes a big burden for you as well. It is because you suppress that intense pain which you felt by seeing others’ plight. It doesn’t come out and stays with you because you didn’t execute compassion.
Trust me, the pain becomes unbearable and kills you from inside. Eventually, your self-respect and esteem get affected significantly. You must have felt it at some point in your lives.
Therefore, before giving justifications and excuses for not being compassionate, try to explore the reasons to commit to it.
Not when you realize it, people’s plight shall commence. They are already suffering. Sympathizing can only provide comfort to your mind, not theirs. If you want to soothe their minds, you need to act on the situation.
No wonder, you cannot control everything happening across the world, but yes, you are fully responsible for what is going around you.
It is understandable that you are facing problems to an extent that you cannot sense the plight of others. But if your conscious mind can feel that something is wrong, and you can contribute to the change, lash onto the opportunity now.
If not, a time will come when you will stop getting affected by cries of help around you and a potential philanthropist will die.
Please make sure to complete the process; Sympathy-Empathy-Compassion.
Amanpreet Singh is the founder of Happy Realization. From the negatives of depression to the positives of meditation, he loves expressing his experiences and the practical life lessons which he calls his Happy Realizations. He is a guest blogger at respectable publications like Pick the Brain and Dumb Little Man.