Empathy vs Sympathy

When I trained to be a Stephen Minister, the manual had a picture describing the difference between empathy and sympathy. I wish I still had the manual to tell you the exact look of the drawing, but here is my best recall.

The illustration has a well-developed tree (the unmovable God,) a hole or pit right beside the tree (unfortunate circumstances in life) and a person down inside the pit (could be any one of us.)

With sympathy, another character is down in the pit with the troubled soul, trying to push each other unsuccessfully up out of the hole. But neither of them are unable to reach the stable force, because they are slipping and falling around the bottom of the pit together.

Then with empathy, the illustration shows a person gripping with one hand on the unmovable tree and with their other hand extending down toward the troubled soul. Because they have a grip on the unmovable tree, they are able to help draw the person upward out of the pit.

Sympathy can complicate the problem.

Empathy can give leverage and strength.


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