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Sympathy versus Empathy: Fueling True Connection

by Anjali Smith

“Rarely what makes something better is a response. What makes something better is connection.”

In under three minutes, Brené Brown brilliantly describes the stark differences between empathy and sympathy and reasons why true connection and healing can only be facilitated by empathy. Listen to her brief discussion here:

According to Brown, empathy includes

  • perspective taking, recognizing the other person’s perspective as their truth

  • staying out of judgment

  • recognizing emotion in other people

  • communicating that recognized emotion

She explains that empathy is inevitably more difficult, as empathy requires that we find a similar place of brokenness within ourselves in order to be able to feel with the other person. In her words, “I have to connect with something in myself that knows that feeling.”

“Empathy fuels connection. Sympathy drives disconnection.”

Practically, an empathic response hears the felt emotion and communicates that we see the sometimes unspoken pain caused. Brown addresses that, “rarely, if ever, does an empathic response begin with ‘at least’.” Empathy does not try to draw the silver lining around another person’s pain. Empathy makes others feel connected, in community, and not alone in the midst of pain.

As we walk through rehabilitation and development with the economically hurting in our county, we seek to come alongside those experiencing pain and feel that pain with them. When we fail to meet them with our own vulnerability in the midst of their pain, we miss the chance to become their transformational community.

To learn more about Shasta Thrive, contact us here.

We are always looking for people in our community with a heart to walk alongside the hurting and at-risk and equip them with the skills and tools to walk in the life they hope for. If you would like to get involved in Shasta Thrive, please let us know! We would love to have you join our team. We have volunteer needs in a variety of capacities.

  • Future Story Facilitators

  • Mentors for the homeless

  • Mentors for those coming out of rehab and in transitional housing

  • Event and Administrative Volunteers

Not quite sure where you fit? If you have a heart to get involved, we would love to connect with you! We believe every person has unique skills and giftings necessary for the transformation of a community.


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