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June 2024
Vol. 23, No. 9


Empathy vs. Sympathy

December 2013

Call me Charlie Brown, call me Ebenezer Scrooge, call me the Grinch, but this girl is ready for 2014. Please excuse the late blog post, as my house was ransacked a couple nights ago by a thief. Along with all sense of security and any shred of holiday cheer I had left, they took around $30K worth of heirloom jewelry and electronics, including my computers. My roommate and I are so fortunate that we were not home at the time of the robbery. I know that, and I don’t need the Ghost of Christmas Future slithering through my window to remind me. Besides, window-slithering is what started this whole mess. I am glad for my safety, glad my instruments weren’t stolen, and glad for all of life’s blessings. But for now, I am sad. And I want to say that out loud for just a few moments without having to acknowledge all the good things about losing so much, but “at least” not everything.

I bring all this up because my friend Kristine and I had a conversation last night about empathy versus sympathy, and I think it’s an important issue to think about. She posted the below video on her blog this week. I realized after watching that I am not very good at self-empathy. Training yourself to look for the good in a troubling situation can be a wonderful quality, but sometimes that quality can carry a heavy guilt in moments where you truly just want to sit with the bad stuff. When talking to others about the robbery, I have a hard time simply saying “I am really grieving this loss” without first pointing out that “At least I’m safe.” Why do we do this? Are we afraid of sounding ungrateful, weak, negative, or vulnerable? Yes, yes, yes, yes.

I bring this up in the San Diego Troubadour blog because I truly feel music has a huge place in moving through moments like this in a healthy way. While it may be hard to empathize in everyday conversation, writing music (or creating anything at all I suppose) is a fantastic way to show empathy. Music allows you to express whatever you might feel in one moment without taking anything else into consideration. It allows you to acknowledge and even glorify your emotions, regardless of their positive or negative charges. It helps you take ownership of your true feelings, rather than feeling ashamed of them. With that said, I plan to show myself empathy today by writing a song.  To any readers who are feeling less fa la la la la and more blah blah blah blah blah this holiday season, I dedicate this unborn song to you. Hope it doesn’t suck. 🙂

What are your thoughts on empathy vs. sympathy?

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