Thursday, January 8, 2015

Empathy vs. Sympathy

This is me:
A few months ago...but something about it seems to capture what I think people see when they look at me.  This picture was taken at a local fiber arts studio.  The owner is a dear friend of mine and she took this with her cell phone.  Just how she saw me that day and thought I needed a picture :-)

I often wonder how I am perceived.  I openly share about my medical condition.  Not for sympathy but a true desire that I can encourage someone to believe that there is hope.  And to share information that may be passed to someone that can benefit from my experiences.

When I talk to people also suffering Multiple Sclerosis  or something similar I try to share and encourage from where they are.  Not to be disheartened or jealous if they are doing better than I am.  And not to push them into defeat or make them feel that I think they are just willingly succumbing.

I share because I am all about spreading hope.  Restoring belief. Raising faith.  And most of all letting them feel me walking beside them--not over them, not behind them, not in front of them.

I don't think that I "pull the sick card"....But not always do people see my limitations.  So sometimes I do have to say..."give me an extra moment my _____ doesn't work like everyone else".

I don't for sympathy but so that I can let people see from  where I am.

Sympathy:  Acknowledging another person's emotional hardships and providing comfort and assurance.

Empathy:   Understanding what others are feeling because you have experienced it yourself or can put yourself in their shoes.

Sharing this song that spoke to my heart even before I become ill.

I remember a few years ago a friend of mine went through two still born births back to back. One day while just quietly listening to her share the story again while she was still sorting the details in her heart she told me.  "Back when you lost babies I always felt sad for you but now I know that pain."  That is empathy...even if you don't know the struggle--reaching for the place to know the feeling.  I don't want or need sympathy.  But I always need people to see the view from my shoes.  And I sincerely try to look at others circumstances from where they are.