Empathy and Sympathy

This morning at church, I met a man, he asked me what the difference between empathy and sympathy is. Before I could answer, we were interrupted, the man said think about it, we’ll talk again.

I’ve sense read Dictionary.com’s answer (below including link) and am thankful I didn’t have time to answer as I don’t think I’d had the best answer. A search of bible verses turned up very different verses for empathy vs. sympathy.

Bible verses about empathy from BibleReasons.com

  • Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
  • Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
  • Peter 4:10  God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.
  • Romans 12:15  Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.
  • Galatians 6:2-3  Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.

Bible verses about Sympathy from LoveToKnow.com

  • Lamentations 3:31-32 – For the Lord will not cast off forever, but. . . he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.
  • Isaiah 49:13 – For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.
  • Psalms 9:9 – The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
  • Psalms 30:2 – O Lord my God, I called to you for help and you healed me.
  • Psalms 46:1 – God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
  • Psalms 62:1 – My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.
  • Psalms 147:3 – He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
  • Luke 6:21 – Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
  • John 16:22 – So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.
  • 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 – Blessed be the God and Father. . .who comforts us in all our affliction. . .

Empathy vs. Sympathy by Dictionary.com (Click for full article)

The terms empathy and sympathy are often confused, and with good reason. Both of the words deal with the relationship one has to the feelings and experiences of another. Today we explore the differences between these terms and how they are most commonly used.

empathy_sympathyBoth sympathy and empathy have roots in the Greek term páthos meaning “suffering, feeling.” The prefixsym- comes from the Greek sýn meaning “with, together with” and the prefix em- derives from the Greek en- meaning “within, in.”

Sympathy is the older of the two terms. It entered English in the mid-1500s with a very broad meaning of “agreement or harmony in qualities between things or people.” Since then, the term has come to be used in a more specific way. Nowadays sympathy is largely used to convey commiseration, pity, or feelings of sorrow for someone who is experiencing misfortune. This prevailing sense is epitomized in the category of greeting card most often labeled “sympathy” that specializes in messages of support and sorrow for those in a time of need.

Consider the following examples:

“There was little sympathy in England for David Beckham … when he received a red card in a 1998 World Cup loss to Argentina.” –New York Times,  July 2, 2015

“…the new [Facebook] feature would automatically replace the existing ‘like’ button with a ‘sympathize’ one when users tag their statuses with a negative emotion, like ‘sad’ or ‘depressed.’” –New York, December 6, 2013

Empathy entered English a few centuries after sympathy—in the late 1800s—with a somewhat technical and now obsolete meaning from the field of psychology, which referred to the physiological manifestation of feelings. Unlike sympathy, empathy has come to be used in a more broad way than it was when it was first introduced into the lexicon; the term is now most often used to refer to the capacity or ability to imagine oneself in the situation of another, thereby vicariously experiencing the emotions, ideas, or opinions of that person.

Consider the following examples:

“…many of us believe that if more lives are at stake, we will — and should — feel more empathy (i.e., vicariously share others’ experiences) and do more to help.” –New York Times, July 10, 2015

“I think that’s almost what it is sometimes if you sum up what acting is. It’s just the ultimate expression of empathy.” –Emily Blunt, Los Angeles Times, December 8, 2014

To sum up the differences between the most commonly used meanings of these two terms: sympathy is feeling compassion, sorrow, or pity for the hardships that another person encounters, while empathy is putting yourself in the shoes of another.

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About GettingCloserToOurGod

This blog is written by Todd Christenson. He was raised in Nebraska and currently lives on Long Island in New York. Though out my childhood, my family attended church. We prayed together at meals. I thought I was prepared for life. After college, I moved to New York City. Shy, unsure of myself, building an identity in worldly things, increasingly prideful, self-righteousness, a controlling nature. In 2013, God spoke through someone, suggesting I confess my sins. I did. I realized that every day, I’d been glorifying myself, not God. Today, God’s teaching me to have my identity in Him, only, my dependency in Him, not myself, being who He wants me to be, not the world, loving Him first, loving others as myself.
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