March 10, 2016
Sympathy seems to be a different portion of allyship as it is rooted in basic awareness and concern. “Sympathy is when you show concern for somebody else, but you are not able to connect with the issues on a personal level,” says Ellie Grossman ‘17.
Care and awareness are a great first step to creating change, but sympathy is just that: a first step. “Sympathy is just someone feeling bad for someone and recognizing someone else is facing hardship and is struggling, which is good but does not actually create any possibility for progress,” says Emily Moffa ‘16.
Look at an issue, event, or person, become aware, become passionate, put your skin, heart, soul, and self completely in it: this is empathy. “Empathy fundamentally requires a person to try to understand how a person is feeling by essentially trying to step into their shoes,” says Moffa. “That may come from comparing their situation to a situation of their own, which allows a connection that bonds the empathizer and the empathized person through an almost mutual struggle.”
“Empathy is critical,” adds Elisa Lopez ‘19, “because it is essential to understanding others’ perspectives. It allows us to personally understand another’s perspective. This is vital because the presence of empathy allows us to build healthy relationships through shared understanding and making us more aware of how our own behavior affects the lives of others.”
“I would define apathy as lacking emotion or feeling towards something,” says Jai Kademani ‘19. Apathy isn’t necessarily the opposite of sympathy or empathy, but just a lack of connection of feelings needed to attribute to human emotion.
“Apathy is when a person doesn’t have a personal connection with something, usually another person or an event, and this manifests as detachment from and lack of emotion towards that thing,” adds Kelly Brakken ‘17. “In some cases apathy can keep people from empathizing with each other’s experiences and, in general, an apathetic outlook on life and politics restricts potential for human connection and social change. In my opinion, it can be dangerous and lead people to prioritize only their own needs. Apathy restricts movement and productivity.”