Empathy Is Not Sympathy

a2a_linkname=”TI&S | Empathy Is Not Sympathy”;a2a_linkurl=”https://timvalentine.wordpress.com/2009/05/29/empathyisnotsympathy/”;
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were. Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”  – John Donne “For Whom the Bell Tolls

As cool it would be if it was true, I know that the world doesn’t revolve around me. I would like to believe that we would be in a better place in terms of human conditions if I ruled the world. Unfortunately this is just a fascination of my utopian dream to making the world what I believe it ought to be; Heaven.

Although this dream may not become a reality in my life time I can at least try. You can’t take it for granted or rely on the fact that you’ve never been told any differently that people will change. One can change the world if there’s one willing to try.

I’m still amazed by how so many of us have become comfortable with the lack of empathy we demonstrate towards each other. Perhaps it’s due to the busy lives we employ. Maybe it’s due to a lack of socialization or understanding. Maybe you just don’t want any trouble, so you just go along to get along. Whatever the case may be, there comes a time where your silence becomes betrayal.

When some are more eager to protest against a proposition in California than rally to end discrimination and homophobia then there’s a problem. When Christians are more concern with preventing Same-Sex Marriage than divorce, then there’s a problem.

When a woman who graduates 2nd in her class at an Ivy-League school while overcoming economic, social and medical issues is intelligence is questioned and whether she is suitable for a position because of her life experiences, then something is wrong.

When your words are taken out of context, chopped and screwed to blend into a malicious and hateful mix promoted by culturally unaware, socially uninformed exclusionists for political purposes, then something is wrong.

The law of the life is not logic, but experience. Experience that’s been tested by obstacles and barriers, hardship and misfortune. The insistence of persistence is what ultimately overcomes those barriers. It is these experiences that allow a person to consider others and be able to relate to them on a personal level despite our apparent differences and/or opposing interests?

What is your standard?

We are here because of the aspirations, works and sacrifices of someone else. The dream that one day we can live with love, respect and concern for each other in what Dr. Martin Luther King called the Beloved Community is being foreclosed on by the unethical practices of propagandist who only seek to profit off of fear and hate.

Far too often have we found ourselves bound by the narrow confines of foolish perceptions? Whether trapped by boundless liberalism or arrested by static conservatism the results are the same; progressive stagnation.

To become what you ought to be you need to consider others. The standard for which you judge others you judge yourself, but more harshly. When you continue to put up borders in your life, the community becomes less beloved and more despised. The standard of your arguments are no longer freedom or emancipation, but obstruction and restriction.

When you reach the point that you can recognize life as just an ordinary person, blessed with extraordinary opportunities and experiences. Perhaps you will understand what empathy means. Empathy does not mean adjusting the circumstances in such a way that the “little guy/minority” wins, but to place yourself in their position. Become the little guy, experience life as he or she experiences it, before casting judgment that is tainted with bias observations and experiences.

Take the time to become friends with someone different than you. Strive to sincerely learn about someone who is not like you. Example: I’m a Black Male, so I would want to try to befriend and learn more about someone who is not Black or a male. (I can personally say with confidence that I only have one friend who is a Black male, the rest are women of various races including Black.)

You are not an island, entire of yourself. The world doesn’t revolve around you. Any man’s death whether it be physical, moral or spiritual diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. Empathy is what I believe John Donne is saying in my 21st Century remix of a 17th Century poem. There are no them, but only us. We should not build fences or walls, but bridges. We are the community and to make it beloved, we have to learn how to love it and each other.

References & Inspirations
John Donne – 1624 “Devotions upon emergent occasions and several steps in my sickness – Meditation XVII
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – 12/18/1963 “Social Justice (Speech at Western Michigan University)
Christian Century – 04/03/1974 “Search for the Beloved Community: The Thinking of Martin Luther King, Jr.”

5 thoughts on “Empathy Is Not Sympathy

  1. Another thought-provoking post. From “What is your standard?” through to the end is powerful and priceless.

    I had a high-level boss who would always say that how people perceive someone is more important than who a person is. I understand his point, but still don’t agree.

    Thanks Tim!

  2. Hi Tim,

    I have to echo “afrankangle’s” sentiments–you certainly have a knack for producing interesting, thought-provoking content. Hope is well you and yours. Have a wonderful weekend sir.

    PS: If you were in charge of the world even for a day, I trust–given your character and make-up–that at least for one day, the world wouldn’t do things the Democratic or Republican way, but the right way.

    1. 🙂 WOW!

      I honestly don’t know what to say Al, except my sincerest thanks for such a kind word. I simply can not tell you how much I appreciate that. Being called certain names and other “creative” comments that are too explicit or hateful to approve so often while trying to stick to my beliefs and consider their point-of-view gets old. It just gets tiresome. I know it’s just a blog as some people has told me, but I honestly want people to understand something before going to the next site or logging off. Anyway, I thank you and Frank, Michael and those who offer me an encouraging word. It’s appreciated.


      If I did rule the world for a day, the world of sports would hate me, because I would want to dominate every single sport. Everything. From Water Polo to Bull Fighting to Chess to Lacrosse to Golf and WWE Wrestling. Everything. Sigh… Oh Well. 😀

  3. It would be a great day if for 24 hours everyone in the world could stop worrying about everything and play sports. Instead of the Olympics, we would call it the O-Tim-pics. 🙂

    “Far too often have we found ourselves bound by the narrow confines of foolish perceptions? Whether trapped by boundless liberalism or arrested by static conservatism the results are the same; progressive stagnation.”

    I like that quote, especially the notion that liberalism can be a trap. It’s an important point to make: it’s better to have known how things actually are for real people rather than assume that the highest, most perfect ideal will always work.

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