The Difference Between Empathy and Sympathy

Difference between Empathy and Sympathy

In ministering to children from disrupted homes, we stress the need to empathize with what the kids are going through – not sympathize! This great video is one of the most succinct explanations of the difference between empathy and sympathy that I have found.

The video makes some great points, and I encourage you to watch the whole thing (it’s only 2:53 long after all).

One of the interesting things in the video was a study of professions where empathy is relevant and identifying four components of empathy:

  1. Perspective taking (taking someone else’s
  2. Staying out of judgment
  3. Recognizing emotion in other people
  4. Communicating that

There are some great takeaway quotes from the video too:

Empathy is being with people.

Empathy is a choice and it’s a vulnerable choice.

Rarely, if ever, does an empathic response start with ‘At least…”

I think my favorite observation though comes right at the end of the video:

Because the truth is, rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better is connection.

No matter what tools you are using or how well thought out your ministry is, it is relationship that is the key to everything.

This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on Divorce Ministry 4 Kids on December 04, 2014.

Written by Wayne Stocks
Wayne is the founder and executive director of Hope 4 Hurting Kids. He is a happily married father of four kids with a passion for helping young people who are going through rough times. In addition to Hope 4 Hurting Kids, Wayne started I Am A Child of Divorce to help kids who are dealing with the disruption of their parents' relationship. You can reach Wayne at