Empathy (aka Not To Be Confused With Everything Else)

  • Definition: Being able to hear what the other person is telling you, without judgment or giving the other person advice or trying to show off your own problems or telling them their problems are stupid or pretending to listen but secretly finding joy in playing with your phone or giving them *eugh* sympathy instead.
“I think we all have empathy. We may not have enough courage to display it.”
– Maya Angelou –

Years ago, right after my mother got diagnosed with breast cancer, I told a friend how scared I was to lose my mother. My friend’s response was: “Oh come on, my parents have several women living in their street who have had breast cancer. And they all survived.”

I’ve never told her anything significant again, but it took me a long time to figure out why exactly; this “friend” (we’ve fallen apart) didn’t give me what I needed when I told her I was afraid. Instead of listening to my feelings and giving me empathy, she went along and tried to soothe me. In her own, wicked and – may I add – lousy way she gave me sympathy.

Last night I got into a fight with my mother (who luckily survived breast cancer. Just like those three women living in the street of my ex-friend’s parents). I got upset over something and felt incredibly sad. I came to her for comfort, but I got tricked out of receiving empathy again. Instead, she got cross with me for “wasting her time” while she should be cooking.

My mother is not the queen of empathy, let me tell you!

So here I am, thinking it’s time to settle this thing once and for all. First of all: empathy is more difficult than most people think. It goes beyond trying to imagine what the other person is going through, because if you go down that road odds are you will end up giving them unwanted advice or telling them something similar YOU’VE experienced that was , of course, much worse than their story. From there it’s an easy step to tell them “it’s going to be okay,” because if you made it through, so can they. That’s not empathy, that’s sympathy, and it’s not what someone wants to hear.

Basically, all they want is to let their emotions out. Empathy is listening to what the other person is saying, and making sure they feel comfortable enough to express their feelings to you. I found a super video that perfectly clears out the difference between empathy and sympathy:

Don’t let yourself get tricked into giving sympathy. It’s considered a good thing to be sympathetic, but sometimes it really isn’t. Sometimes all we need is someone who gives us a hug and listens to us rant. Who confirms our emotions and gives us the space and courage to let these out.

Be brave. Be empathic.

“Maybe love is what I need, but not your sympathy.”
– Mika –

When was the last time you needed empathy but didn’t get it?


Heart to Post

Wednesday Wisdom-Tile

Yes, that’s a picture I took while on a husky sled! For all my other pictures of my trip to Finnish Lapland, go here.

Have a good week, everyone! 🙂


About Tough Cookies And Husky Safaris

(I am still not up to my regular blogging rhythm. Or my regular reading-up-on-people schedule. Not sure why, but I keep trying :))

I hate teenagers. There, I said it. I hated them when I was a kid. I hate them now I am an adult. And I hated them when I was a teenager! Maybe that’s the most important reason, because as a teenager I was bullied extremely by my peers, so I suspect my dislike of puberty-driven youngsters is a result from my personal darkest ages.

Having said all that, I do not sit in my room contemplating revenge on every living teen. Nor do I grow mad, cursing every single one of them. Secretly I don’t hate teens that much, actually, but I do loathe groups of them. They all seem to know best and there’s always this invisible competition going on regarding who’s got the biggest mouth. And that, I hate.

So when I went out for a run yesterday and encountered more than one group of cycling teenagers (eeeeeeeeeehhhhh, the horror! Multiple teens on bikes!!), imagine my delight. And please note my sarcasm in case you hadn’t already.

By rule, I ran on the wrong side of the road because there was no pedestrian area and this way I could see cyclist coming my way (and they would see me). The trouble with groups of teenagers on bicycles is, however, they don’t care. They see you, but they just don’t care. Because the world clearly belongs to them and who cares about how sportive you’re being: you ought to get out of their precious ways!

Normally I would, but not this time.

Instead of trying to avoid them by jumping into the bushy roadside (and probably being laughed at while doing so), I squared my shoulders, lifted my chin and forced some of them to make room for me!

Dear Lord, this is such a victory! xD Especially because one snobby little teen girl felt the need to shout something at me, or rather at her friend (it was all very passive-aggressive, but it was definitely a snarky remark about moi), and I didn’t care! Whoop whoop!

Okay so I had my headphones on and I couldn’t really make out what she was saying, but still. Whoop whoop!

I am so not the person I was a year ago 🙂 Somehow I turned into a tough cookie!

I am also not the person I’ll be in three days, when I’ll be in FINLAND riding a HUSKY SLED!

That’s right, I am going on another adventure to fulfil another one of my dreams. I’ve seen the pictures. I’ve overcome the flu.

I. Am. Ready!

I hope those huskies are ready for me, too! ❤


Picture from: https://c1.staticflickr.com/5/4091/4834248241_9d3a308750_b.jpg
“Come on Sam, don’t keep us waiting!”