Paramountly, let us fathom a basic difference between sympathy, empathy, and compassion.
In simple words, Sympathy is to feel sorry for others’ misfortunes. It is to feel pity for someone’s pain and plight.
When you raise the level of sympathy by trying to feel what others are going through, it is Empathy. Empathy is an intense feeling than sympathy where you try to imagine and 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. Precisely, compassion is the conversion of feelings into action, i.e. doing something to relieve the pain of others.
As it comes:
You must consider yourself fortunate if you have the ability to sympathize. It is because everyone does not get affected by others’ plight and sorrows. If you do, it means humanity prevails within you.
Consequently, it becomes your responsibility to convert those feelings into actions. It is because your sympathy is not going to solve their problems… apologies for sounding too direct but sympathy leading to empathy, and empathy leading to compassion is a process, which must be completely executed. If it is not happening, you need to ponder upon a few things.
It may not be possible every time but trust me, it is possible most of the times. You can always extend either your mental or financial support depending on the situation, to the ones seeking help.
Let us assume two instances from the daily life, one seeking mental support and the other instance seeking financial support. Let’s find out whether you are sympathetic, empathetic or compassionate?
The instance seeking your mental support!!!
You must not forget that when you are surrounded by life, likewise, you are surrounded by death. Someone or the other in your family, friends, relatives, society is dying every day. You may call me candid but you cannot deny this happening. And in this situation, feeling sympathetic about the loss sitting at your home is not going to do any good to the ones who have lost their loved ones.
If you really feel bad about it, go to them and express your sympathy to them. Trust me, even a few words of encouragement for the sufferer here is an act of compassion. It is because this is the best you can do in that particular situation. Obviously, no one can overturn this unfavorable situation for them. And what you can offer here is your mental support. Never refrain from showing up to people surfacing these situations.
Always remember, people remember your face in a funeral more than in a celebration. If he/she is facing this situation today, it can be you tomorrow. So, if you need shoulders, offer a shoulder first.
Now let us analyze the instance seeking your financial support
You see an old physically disabled person; worn and shabby clothes, skinny as a rail, somehow dragging himself on the road. Instinctively, you feel sympathy towards him. ‘Cruel life,’ you mutter to yourself. Correspondingly, a few thoughts of kindness follow your ongoing feelings. You might even empathize with that person. Dear friend…It’s ok until now.
However, in due course, you begin to put a few allegations as per your suitability, on God, Destiny, Government, Country, People, and so on. Ironically, you blame everyone for their plight except yourself.
You begin to feel lighter where you bail us out from that situation. Eventually, you feel blessed, appreciate your lives, thank God that you are not one of them and move on. To say the least, you step back at the action time.
Yes, it is the most common syndrome with most of us. It is the same case when you want the street drains clean after throwing the garbage inside it.
Next day, you come across the other incident of the same genre and repeat the same process. I am sorry, but this is what is happening most of the times with most of us.
A few in-depth questions:
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. Yes, you are being struck by some hard realizations, which actually are the answers.
A few heartfelt realizations:
You need to shed both happiness and sadness 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. Feeling sad for it and not doing something for it can be self-disastrous. And if you feel blessed and not follow compassion, well, I can only feel sorry for you.
Have you ever realized that if you are restricting yourself from being empathetic and not converting it into compassion, even you are suffering?
A big realization is coming up…
When you don’t convert your sympathy or empathy into compassion, it leads to self-harming thoughts. And when you follow compassion, it leads to self-love.
Yes, it is not only the sufferer who suffers. The non-expressiveness of sympathy makes you feel heavy and weak. It is because that intense pain which you felt by seeing others’ plight is suppressed by you. It doesn’t come out and stays with you because the action of compassion was not executed.
Trust me, the pain becomes unbearable gradually and starts killing you from inside. And eventually, your self-respect and esteem get affected significantly. I guess 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.
It is not when you feel sympathy towards others, they are suffering. Yes, it is not that when you wake up, it’s morning. Sympathizing can only provide comfort to your mind, not theirs. If you really want to soothe their minds, you need to start acting on the situation.
It is understandable that you are troubled in your lives to an extent that you are not able to sense the plight of others. Nonetheless, if your conscious mind can feel that something is going wrong around you, 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 eventually, a potential philanthropist will die.
Consider yourself lucky that you have an ability; the ability to sympathize with the plight of others. And make sure you convert it into compassion. Never break the chain.