Sympathy vs. Empathy

Sympathy vs. empathy. These are very similar and often confused emotions. I would like to think that I am attuned to being sympathetic to what friends, loved ones and even strangers are going through. In truth, I suspect that sometimes I am more successful at this than others. But empathy is a very different animal. When you have actually walked in the shoes of another, it isn’t difficult to imagine their plight at all.

I can honestly say that until recently, I have spent very little time thinking about Parkinson’s disease. Oh, I felt sad for Michael J. Fox in 1991 when I learned that he had the disease. I was deeply moved by the grace and dignity with which Pope John Paul II conducted himself with the disease and the profound example he displayed for all the world about the value of human life. More recently, I have been touched by watching one of the most pious men I know, Norm Paolini of St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy in Buffalo, also become afflicted by Parkinson’s.

Now, in the blink of an eye, my entire worldview is observed through the filter of Parkinson’s. The world is a funny place.

Yesterday, I received an early Father’s Day present. Quincy and the kids relocated our recumbent stationary bike from its out of pocket location in our basement to a place of prominence in our bedroom. Subtle, right? They also, dramatically rearranged the room. One piece of furniture was taken to the Delevan Scout Building as our donation to Troop 628’s annual Garage Sale coming up in September. A dresser was relocated to the guest bedroom, and the dresser from that room was relocated to our room. And the pièce de résistance, a new television so I could watch Netflix while using the exercise bike. I think it worked, I exercised this morning. I have a great family.

This morning I listened to Casting Crowns’ self-titled debut album. The words of their song Glory echo through my mind as I walk through this day.

When You call my name, I’ll run to Youcasting-800x800
I’ll do anything You ask me to
Falling on my knees I worship You, my Lord
We give You GLORY

Lord, give me the strength to do just that.

2 thoughts on “Sympathy vs. Empathy

  1. Stephen,

    I have personally witnessed your compassion for others, when I was in a very dark place you reach out over 1000 miles away and lifted me out of that.
    I’m praying for you.



  2. Excellent group. I often wish I could write prose more effectively, but I’ll leave it to the experts. I love you Steve and I too am glad you are writing this. I’m proud of you for continuing to be a living example of God’s love for your friends and our family.

    Not because of who I am
    But because of what you’ve done
    Not because of what I’ve done
    But because of who you are
    I am a flower quickly fading
    Here today and gone tomorrow
    A wave tossed in the ocean
    A vapor in the wind
    Still you hear me when I’m calling
    Lord, you catch me when I’m falling
    And you’ve told me who I am
    **I am yours**


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