Fostering Empathy Not Sympathy


I have come to really not like the term sympathy. Maybe because the more I’ve been on the receiving end of sympathy, or been on the receiving end of empathy, there is an amazing difference. Or maybe it’s because I’ve seen and read some of Brene Brown’s work where she talks about empathy and sympathy.

Sympathy feels more like a quick, “Oh i’m so sorry you are going through that.” And they move on with their life. They don’t take the time to truely care and ask questions or sit. Sympathy is a action of looking in and commenting on how dark it is down there in that hole. It must really choke.

—Have you felt alone in your grief? Have you felt like nobody understands?

I’ve been there and I get it. I think you can never truly understand unless you have lost a child. Even then, we all have our own stories and our own grief.

I see you. I know you are in a dark hole. I know you feel crazy many a times, and you think you have to keep it all together. But allow yourself some room for grace and time to grieve. I put together a little guideline called- What to Except When You Are Grieving.

There are so many things, both physical and mental that are a common thread with grief no matter our story. I put as many as I could think of in this list, so you know that that sickness you have come down with? That is something that happens to many. The groceries you have a hard time buying? Totally normal.

You can get you FREE download below!—

Blessings of Empathy

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Empathy comes from experiencing something, and being able to connect on a deep level with that person. It can also come, from taking a moment to try to look through someone else’s lenses and meet them where they are at. Empathy is not being uncomfortable of someone else’s pain, and allowing room for them to express whatever they are feeling, with a knowing that you understand. Or as Brene Brown had said earlier this week, “she will not look away from his pain”. When you allow someone to be, and be seen in their pain, that is great empathy and compassion.

One thing I’m thankful for is that I have learned empathy. At least I hope I have. I know we all can get in our moments where we cannot understand why someone is doing something they way they do, because we do it differently. I remember visiting with a another mom who had lost her child, and we were wondering if there’s possibly anything good that can come from this? It’s a painful way to learn empathy, but I’m thankful I have.

Peeling Back the Layers

As I’ve come to learn more about others in my life, I’ve learned that there are deeper parts to us all that are not public knowledge. And we might not even know how to explain ourselves. But there are many times a reason that we do things the way we do it.

But the more I’ve learned about the human life experience is we all have our trials, heaviness in our lives. Some a visible, some are not. Some are public trials, and some we carry inside ourselves with no one to talk to them about.

We are all onions that have other layers below. (Justin told me an onion is not a good description, tulip is better, but I don’t know how many layers a tulip has). Some people never allow anyone to get to the center of that onion, and others may allow a select few. If you ever have the honor of sitting with someone when they share deep pain you have been blessed.

It’s hard to share. Being vulnerable is difficult. It’s far from easy, you feel torn open, exposed, and unsure of how you will be received. But when you do, you have a deeper connection and understanding of each other. This fosters more empathy for others, and for ourselves.If we can all strive to have more empathy for others even when we don’t understand their life situations, we can create better relationships and connections one person at a time.


How quick are we to judge the next person over? When there is no way we can fully know anyone's story. I’m not immune to this either, but if we can notice in ourselves, and pull our judgmental thoughts back, remember this, that everyone has their own story.

Have you been on the receiving end of empathy and compassion from someone? How did it make you feel? What about sympathy? How did that make you feel? Which one makes you feel more connected to another human being?