Empathy: the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.
I have been hearing this word thrown around lately in the news, politics, online, throughout history, and in conversation. The definition was placed first for a reason; empathy is consistently misused mostly to confuse. Hopefully, I will be able to show the differences to erase the duality purposefully placed in our minds and accepted by those who believe those who use the word.
I would like to first start with history. There are too many travesties that occurred in our past as humans that were overlooked, accepted, and seen as wrong; YET empathized by many that only acknowledged the horrors. There was reasoning and in many cases justifications from the very religions in our society today. Every war, genocide, rape, pillaging, murder, and scheme to impoverish others have been met with the word empathy but justice is slow or doesn’t come. Empathized because it can be felt but also ignored and taught that somehow the injustice is correct in the best interest of…pick your poison here. It can be a race, gender, sexual orientation, place one lives, education, or difference in religion. Empathy is used as an excuse when humanity within is suppressed. And what of the recipients of these tragedies? And I am not only speaking of the victims but their father’s, mother’s, daughter’s, sisters, brothers, aunt’s, grandparents. How often do we hear of empathy for these individuals but usually they are left to deal with the lifetime of pain? Those in power empathize pass laws that have time limits yet the effects can devastate. And I will choose just one that has been in the forefront, the molestation of our children by those we trust in the law, family, cults, religions, and the media. Those who commit the crimes can be shuffled around, given limited punishment in the justice system, or the person who suffers the sickness of the violator is told, “There is a statue of limitations concerning this case. We will be unable to prosecute due to mitigating circumstances. We are truly sorry.” On one hand, the law or people speaking empathize, go home and forget about the victim. On the second hand the traumatized victims and family go through a vast amount of emotional turmoil; sometimes forever. How many suicides, PTSD suffering, harsh drug taking to escape, therapy going (and its not helping), isolated to feel safe, gaining weight to feel safe, changing appearance for safety, anger filled and can’t express positively, committing crime victims that feel they were not heard, felt, seen, taken care of or cared about during their trauma? You cannot deny these situations are happening because they are, every day. The tears and blood that has flowed because empathy is a crime against humanity. Empathy is never a solution for any problem but a cover like a band-aid never changed and left to fester.
Then we have sympathy.
1. harmony of or agreement in feeling, as between persons or on the part of one person with respect to another.
2. the fact or power of sharing the feelings of another, esp. in sorrow or trouble; fellow feeling, compassion, or commiseration.
Understanding and wanting to change a wrong is sympathy. Doing the work, day in and day out to make sure the injustice (whatever it might be) never happens again. We all were born with compassion and sympathy, we choose to use it because it is the right thing to do. It may not be welcomed by popular consensus but is striven for, fought for, died for, and when recognized as correct; is changed for the better of all. Sympathy has inspired the artist, writer, activist, prophets, men, and women of all walks of life to stand up for a cause. These are our Mother Theresa’s, Dali Lama’s, Gandhi’s, Jesus’, Martin Luther King’s, and everyday people who rather give back to society so this world will be a better place rather than take what they can while they are here. How many people do we have in our communities that do remarkable selfless things for no return? How many not only see the good that can come from contributing here in this country and around the world because they realize what affects one town or village, effects our world and lives both in the present and future. Sympathy will wake a person out of the darkness and change their outlook on everything they believe in, it can separate families, relationships, and societies because a light comes on inside. At that point what use to be fine, isn’t anymore and regardless of what this now awake person may lose; they are changed from the one place that cannot be messed with once enlightened to the compassion of Life -within.
Sympathy has been injected in the most obvious places yet we walk past them every day as if they were not there or ignore the meaning because the simplest reasoning could not be the answer. The complication, red tape, the system, lack of vision, and knowledge is blocking fact. One example of an artist that had vision many years ago and to this day the gift is ignored, misinterpreted, mistreated, and sold to people many times in its wrong state: The statue of Liberty. A marvelous piece of artwork with enough vision to be relevant today. Until sympathy, compassion, and justice is for all of mankind, then we are all in bondage and blind. Until we recognize the light we hold then we are mere statues in time. And it was given to the land of freedom, where all men are created equal and yet we empathize with human beings here and in our world. A contradiction in the fabric of our very building of this country where humans left bondage for freedom and created the same hypocrisy.
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