Tag Archives: Jeremy Rifkin

What’s the Difference Between Empathy and Sympathy?

Screen Shot 2014-01-23 at 12.48.00 PMWhen you search for empathy on Google, you get almost 10,000,000 results. When you search for sympathy on Google, you get almost 25,000,000 results. I bet if we could look at historical search results in Google, I bet that we’d see a big trend where the number of search results for empathy has been increasing. The closest thing we can do to this is a search of all the books that contain the word empathy (at least the ones that have been digitized by Google). How? Using Google’s Ngram Viewer.

The chart above shows the mentions of empathy and sympathy starting in 1800 and ending in 2008. As we can see, empathy was hardly mentioned at all when compared to sympathy until the 1920s. That makes me wonder if there might have been some writings about empathy around the time of the Great Depression. What’s noteworthy though, is the steady increase in mentions of empathy. Granted, it’s still in only a fraction (0.0005%) of books, but it’s still progress.

Sympathy, on the other hand, we can see has steadily declined since the early 1900s. However, there’s been a small blip in sympathy since the mid-2000s. I would guess that this may have to do with the title question of this post: the difference between sympathy and empathy.

There’ve probably been several books written about the differences between empathy and sympathy in the last 5 or 10 years. So, do you know the difference between the two? I have to admit, even as an undergraduate in psychology, I’d often find myself googling the difference between the two terms. About a month ago, I came across a great video from the RSA that quickly explains the difference between empathy and sympathy. Of course, there’s a slight bias towards empathy in the video, but I think you’ll agree — empathetic is far better than sympathetic.

In case you’re inspired to be a champion of empathy or want some more information about programs that are helping to increase the level of empathy, I’d suggest checking out Ashoka: Empathy.

And if you want a bit more information about how empathy has shaped our society and continues to shape it, then I highly recommend checking out the RSA Animate video of Jeremy Rifkin’s book, The Empathic Civilization:

Politicians Are Inherently Good

I believe that people are inherently good and because I believe that politicians are people, too, I also believe that politicians are inherently good. [.] You’ll find many about the topic as to whether people are good and you’ll also find many people in general debating this topic (, , and ). Some people think it’s clear that . You’ll even find academic articles written on the subject of humans inherent goodness ( and ). While I acknowledge the religious component to this debate, from everything I’ve seen of people, I think they are inherently good.

Yes, there are heinous acts committed everyday around the world, but I don’t think that people are doing these things in their “right mind.” That is, I think that there is some form of . I think that people couldn’t do some of the things that they do without being, in some way, detached from what they are doing. While the human condition encompasses a wide variety of human behavior, I don’t think that humans, without being (unaware) to some extent, of what they are doing, that they could do what they do (when they harm other humans).

I am in the process of working on a series of posts where I make the claim that is way behind and while this implicates the politicians who, by the very nature of the system, are directly involved with the writing and publishing of American public policy, I do not think that politicians are deliberately (and maliciously, that’s key) making it this way. I think that because of the way that the system of the American government is set up and the system of the American media, it’s much easier for American politicians to get away with the kinds of things they get away with, but I don’t think there is harmful intent.

Some may call me idealistic, but I believe that (most) humans on the planet, given an opportunity to help a fellow human, would do so. When presented with an , I think that most humans will do what they can to help someone out. More importantly, I think that those who wouldn’t help out are still human, but are expressing what would call, “.”

We can understand this a little easier by looking at some of the things that  has to say: “The thoughts that go through your mind, of course, are linked to the collective mind of the culture you live in – humanity as a whole. They are not your thoughts as such, but you pick them up from the collective… You believe in every thought that arises and you derive your sense of who you are from what your mind is telling you who you are.”

And then pair them with the lens of : “…when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but that when I didn’t believe them, I didn’t suffer…”

Inherently people are good. While I understand that some people my disagree, this is a topic that I have a hard time honestly taking a step back and hearing both sides. I think that people always, always mean well. Like I said earlier, yes, there are some “bad” things that happen in the world, but I do not think that its intentionally harmful (and I really hope not, too). I think that psychology’s perspective on the shadow, along with viewpoints from spiritual teachers like Eckhart Tolle and Byron Katie help us to understand why some people may do “bad things,” and still, inherently, be good people.

Lastly, I wanted to offer a perspective from someone who I think has something important to say on this topic. wrote, what I think, is one of the more important books of this generation. It came out in 2010 and it has already been translated into more than 30 languages. He gave (50 minutes), which was then turned into a . The implications are profound and I have included the animated speech below for your viewing pleasure.