Definition of sympathy

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I am again relying on Dr. Bernie Siegel’s wisdom, found in his book 365 Prescriptions for the Soul, for this post.  The older I get, the more I’m faced with opportunities in which to witness tragedy in the lives of those with whom I come in contact.  Even after all these years, I have to meditate on what a particular person’s tragic situation may mean to him or her so that when we meet in person or by phone, I’ll do and say the right thing.  Here is Dr. Siegel’s take on the matter which I present verbatim:


Sad gumby figureSympathy is not about feeling pity for the person who has experienced a significant loss or problem.  Being “simpatico” is about being congenial, winsome, and pleasant.  To be sympathetic is to connect with the other person so she does not feel isolated by her problem.  If you fear experiencing the other person’s pain, then you will not be able to be sympathetic.

Just as sympathy is not about pity, it is not about denial either.  It is about accepting and relating to the person.  When you do you will experience a fuller life and a feeling of closeness with the other person.  In the sharing of sympathy we learn, and so we move up, in a sense, as human beings.

Caring gumby figuresBeing a sympathetic person will also attract others to you.  They come not to share wounds and complain, but for understanding.  When we are alone in our world and questioning life, a sympathetic word or touch can change our experience and help us to survive.  To be held in the arms of sympathy is a gift that creates true healing.

Soulution of the Day

Be sympathetic in your words and actions, you never know when you may need some sympathy yourself.

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