Thursday, January 5, 2017

Empathy is not a higher form of sympathy

They are different things.

Closely related I'll give you, but one doesn't lead to the other. You can have empathy without sympathy just as you can have sympathy without empathy.

Here's the difference.

Sympathy is just feeling bad for someone who is having a hard time. You don't have to understand what they are going through to have sympathy for them. For instance, I have no idea what it's like you lose my mother. If you lose yours, I will have sympathy for what you're going through.

Empathy is understanding what someone is going through. You don't have to also feel bad for the person. I know what it's like to run late, but if it's your own fault you're late, I have no sympathy for you. I know what it's like to be poor, that doesn't mean I'm going be sympathetic when you vote against your best interest and mine.

Of course those two things are combined all the time. I know what it's like to lose a beloved pet and I will feel bad for you if it happens to you. 

We can also never completely understand what someone else is going through. Everyone's experiences are different. The circumstances that led to whatever is going on with a person are different, as well as our perspective. That doesn't mean we shouldn't try. And when we do try we shouldn't half ass it. Trying to think of what you would feel like if something happened to you does no good if we forget to add all the circumstances to one event. Just because you think someone is overreacting doesn't mean they are. What else is going on? Is this incident the latest in a long line of small things? All good questions to ask, either the person you're trying to understand or just as a prompt to widen your perceptions.

Finally, being empathetic or sympathetic doesn't mean we need to carry other people's burdens. Most people just want a little consideration. We all have enough of our own burdens to carry. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year!

I hope everything

Went well last night and everyone made it home safely. I just want to say you don't have to make resolutions. I know a lot of people resolve to lose weight for the new year. We spend way too much money crowding into gyms and buying diet books only to gain all the weight back plus some.

There's a reason most fail and it's not because you're weak. After a few million years of feast/famine cycles, our bodies were built to hold onto as much weight as possible in the very likely chance there will be a famine. And then the sugar lobby messing with dietary research that lead to low fat diets. Not only does fat make you feel full faster, most of your vitamins are fat soluble, which means you need to eat them with fat in order to absorb them. Wrap it all up in the stress of working too much and being shamed by the diet industry, and you have a recipe for an ever growing waistline.

Also fat doesn't equal unhealthy and thin doesn't equal healthy. Behaviors help determine our health outcomes more than our physical attributes. 

So remember to love yourself. Even if advertisements seek to make you hate yourself in order to sell you stuff. After all, no matter what shape your body is, it still carries your brain around so you can experience stuff. We could all be more grateful for that.