Hmmmm empathy v's sympathy. Having been in receipt of sympathy, I can safely say it generally makes me feel worse. For example, I have been on the receiving end of these comments, and several more that fall somewhere in-between.....
'Ohh you have MS? That's awful' .....sympathetic head tilt....'I know someone who had that. They died.'
'I know someone who had MS. They were fine. Not like you. It must be hard.'
Aaaarrrrggghhhh! Everybody dies! There's not necessarily a direct correlation between death and MS. You may have a slightly shortened life span, but as you don't know when your expiry date is anyway, there's no point stressing about that!
With over 50 symptoms of varying severity, it stands to reason that no two people with MS are the same. Hence why it has been coined the 'snowflake' disease. Each and every one of us are different.
For clarity I include dictionary definitions;
Empathy: the ability to share someone else's feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in their situation.
Sympathy: ( an expression of ) understanding and care for someone else's suffering.
Now, to me, sympathy sounds one step removed, and not truly felt, or meant. Meer lip service. And I get that in spades. Trouble is though, with sympathy, there is nothing to back it up. No action. The purpose of the sympathy seems to be that it makes the one offering it feel better.
Empathy goes that one step further, and if you happen to be on the receiving end, you no longer feel so alone. And as such you feel you matter. And this makes your load lighter.
Let us not forget that MS cannot be fixed. And a million other situations cannot be fixed either. But they can be made more bearable, if a connection is made. It's not about fixing the unfixable, it's about connecting, and being sincerely and genuinely present.
Can you be that person? Make the connection. Take the time. REALLY be there for someone.
Watch this. It clearly defines the difference between empathy and sympathy with humour....
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