It’s not often that we regard public figures as human beings with emotion. Recently, celebrities have sought out help with regard to mental health. Granted, all the cyber trolling eventually takes a toll on our dearly beloved.
So it is when the celebrities like Kanye West are hospitalized that we start to sympathize. We start to feel sorry for their situations. We feel bad for the millions of comments and tabloids that surround them daily. And so we take a moment. But soon after, we see a meme about the situation. And it is hilarious.
You sympathize yes, but you feel you can’t empathize because you are not a celebrity.
While that is valid, it is also where the problem lies.
Sympathy is skin deep. You recognize the situation, and you feel bad. But then all of a sudden, it becomes about you. ‘I can’t imagine what it must be like to go through that, I would be traumatized’, you say. So you build a wall between you and the person, never fully understanding what it is that they feel.
Sympathy is seeing where somebody is, and refusing to go there, because it looks ugly. Comfort in these kinds of times look like ‘get out of there, come here where it’s much nicer’.
But then there is empathy. This is where you see gun fire and dragons, and step into it anyway. Empathy is more than saying ‘I have been through this too, I understand what you are feeling’.No. Because then, it becomes about you again.
Empathy is really about meeting somebody where they are. Visualizing and feeling what this person’s reality is at that moment, and saying ‘You are not alone. I am right here with you. Let’s walk out together’.
So before we take to our twitter accounts and make the next witty Kanye West comment, ask yourself, are you sympathizing because it ‘must be hard’ for him? Or are you empathizing, because it IS hard.