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Empathy

“The word “empathy” is often defined as placing ourselves in the shoes of another. Empathy makes us more compassionate toward other people. It is interesting that the etymology of “empathy” comes from two Greek words, “em” and “pathos.” “Em” means “in.” “Pathos” can be translated “feeling.” It can also be translated as “passion,” meaning the things we struggle with, and “suffering.” We call the sufferings of Christ His “Passion,” which comes from the same word. So, the word “empathy” can correctly be translated as “sharing in sufferings.” (Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis)


“There are two types of empathy. First, emotional empathy is our ability to feel what another person is feeling even when we have not personally had the same kind of experiences. (Note that this is different from sympathy, which is feeling sorry for someone.) Second, cognitive empathy refers to a person’s ability to know how the other person feels and what they might be thinking and also to understand why they might be feeling the way they do. Both types of empathy play a role in enabling us to imaginatively extend ourselves into another person’s frame of reference, which is ultimately an act of loving self-donation.” (Robin Phillips)


“When we speak and act, we should keep the thoughts and feelings of our fellow believers in mind. This kind of thoughtfulness requires empathy, the ability to put oneself in the place of others. When we do so, we adopt the same mind as others. We become like-minded. The word like-minded here means that we are of one accord…We share the same way of thinking. We are united in our spiritual interests, concerns, and attitudes. A sign of such fellow feeling is that we “receive” one another Romans 15:7). Some translations say that we should “accept” one another…But the Greek term comes from the thought of “taking to oneself”… We hold such common thoughts and feelings that we welcome one another not only into our homes but into our hearts…This unity in one mind is not conformity but communion in one transcendent reality, the life of the Holy Trinity. It is not uniformity but the harmony of individual hearts and minds in tune with Christ and one another.” (Fr. Basil)


“Empathy provides energy to others because it makes them aware that we understand their suffering and don’t judge, condemn, or try to fix their problems. Sympathy… takes on the feelings and pain of others in an effort to identify with their plight...A person who is a healing presence to another person provides empathy in abundance without accepting or expressing sympathy. Sympathy…simply magnifies the problem. Sympathy is codependence and pride in disguise. If someone else is feeling depressed, it doesn’t do him or her any good if I become sympathetic and take on the depressed feelings. Other people need hope and strength, not another depressed person to pull them deeper into darkness.” (Albert S. Rossi)


“Certain analysts have found that the emotions of those who use the new media are enhanced, but their affections, especially their powers of empathy and compassion, are diminished…Artists have a responsibility to use their persuasive pull to create the “world that ought to be” and to avoid the misuse of their abilities, which can become so self-destructive. One sure way to do so is by using their influence to illuminate the path of empathy.” (Jean-Claude Larchet, Makoto Fujimura)


“Christ's empathy with sinners rests on His being tempted in every way we are…In the case of men it is impossible that one should know the ill-treatment of the ill-treated who has not had experience, and gone through the actual sensations. Our High Priest endured all things. Therefore He endured first and then ascended, that He might be able to sympathize with us.” (Orthodox Study Bible, Hebrews 4:15, St. John Chrysostom)

“Compassion differs from empathy. The critical element in compassion that differentiates it from empathy is its behavioral component. Empathy is thinking and feeling what others are thinking and feeling. Compassion combines the deep awareness of the sufferings of others with a desire that leads, eventually, to an action to relieve the suffering…Only the God of Love understands the full depth of human anguish and ecstasy. Christ was able to identify with us in our confusion and longing; He was able to enter into our suffering with the utmost empathy and compassion, precisely because His heart was filled with incomprehensible Light.” (Father George Morelli, Jonathan Jackson)

"The alienated experience of life seems to arise from a failure of imagination and from an impoverishment of our capacity to envisage properly the potential richness of our experience. In human relationships such a failure of imagination might be called a lack of empathy.” (Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Clapsis)

“Empathy is that journey of love where we are secure enough to leave our frame of reference and travel to the others' frame of reference in order to understand them and be present with them, resulting in connection and love.” (George Papageorge, M.A., LMFT)

“Let us consider Christ and how He welcomed all people, all circumstances, and everything that may have been unexpected. He engaged each person; He never turned anyone away regardless of how He was treated…He trusted God in all things… we see Christ’s empathy for the people, how He looked beyond Himself and His own needs. In His mercy He healed the sick among them, and He fed them with the miracle of the five loaves and two fish. So did Christ willingly accept the unexpected? Did He put His wishes aside for the sake of others? Yes, of course He did. This may have seemed easy to do, a nice little story, but His whole life was truly an act of love, of selflessness, and of surrendering His will.” (Presvytera Ourania Chatzis)

“The cutting edge is empathy, the ability to get out of the “self” and understand the feelings of another, and the ability to accept and articulate feelings.” (Albert Rossi & Fr. John Schimchik)

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