Is this an easy subject chosen as our challenge for the Word Press Daily Post, Prompt of the day, I sympathize with you if you are finding it a tricky one.
My first thought was a feeling that “sympathize” should end with “ise” and the spell checker on my computer seems to be questioning the spelling ending “ize”, which I had assumed would be due to the difference of spelling between American and English. However having checked with my dictionary it seems both are acceptable and has sympathize as first choice.
To sympathize, then is to agree with a sentiment, opinion, or ideology, but not necessarily to have experienced the situation with which you are sympathizing, for if you have experienced that which you are sympathizing with, you are in fact empathizing, which is a totally different ball game.
I came across a definition for the word empathize on the website “vocabulary.com” which was so good I had to reproduce it verbatim.
“To empathize is to understand or relate to someone else’s emotional experience. If you get teary-eyed upon hearing about the death of your friend’s pet hermit crab, you’re probably empathizing with your friend – unless you’re just bored to tears by her story.”
“Empathize is often used interchangeably with sympathize, but you’ll get no empathy (or sympathy) from the usage experts if you confuse the two. When you sympathize with another person, you feel sad that she is suffering, but you don’t necessarily relate to her experience. It’s easiest to empathize when you’ve been through the same experience; for example, if your pet guppy had recently passed away, your friends hermit crab story would have broken your heart, due to empathy.”
I think I’m getting the hang of this now, so for example, should I be unlucky enough to fall from a cliff when out for a constitutional upon the cliff path and be left clinging for dear life to a small outcrop I should hope that any potential rescuers may have had a similar experience. Those rescuers who have not had a similar experience, whilst showing sympathy may merely pass by, whilst those who have empathy would surely throw me a lifeline in an effort to save my life.
For those of you who are finding this blog a little confusing, I apologise and you have my sympathy, or should that be empathy?