When people are upset, the cultural convention is to bring them hot beverages. ~ Sheldon Cooper, The Big Bang Theory
Although on the TV show, Shellie is referring in particular to tea, I offer a different recipe for this warm and comforting beverage. I know receiving empathy, sympathy and pity can make you feel worse, but that is exactly what this cultural convention is all about. Remember, it is not optional.
Empathy is the ability or tendency to feel what someone is feeling. Certainly it is great when your friends are in the thick of it with you. As those of you have been caught doing crazy stupid things with friends know exactly what I am talking about, let me address the even more straight laced than me. You ever hear the saying that friends help you move and real friends help you move bodies? The only people who really know how you feel are those who made the bodies with you.
I’ve been through some stuff. And I know I have ripped a few people’s heads off because they said “I know what you’re feeling.” So have you. That feeling you get when someone who wasn’t there with you saying they know how you feel is a terrible thing. It is demeaning to a great degree. That is empathy.
Sympathy is what let’s you say “I’m sorry.” It sounds horrible. The thing is, as I have only just realized, that it really means I am sorrowful. Seeing you in this state makes me full of sorrow. I am sad and miserable that you have to go through this alone. I know you have to go through this alone. That much I know. I wish you didn’t. You have to and that makes me sad.
It sucks that when you are feeling upset that this tastes even bitterer than empathy, but really, if you consider it in a clear mind, it is far more heartfelt.
Pity is what lets you feel sorry for a person. Having someone feel sorry for you burns. It’s like they’re saying they think you can’t handle it. It’s like they don’t think you’ll make it through to the other side of this fog you’re in.
They are right. You may not make it through. Deal with it. Sometimes we never make it out of that fog. Sometimes we get lost. Sometimes we lose pieces of our self. Sometimes that is growth, like some animals that shed their skin. Sometimes it’s amputation. No matter what, I pity you that you are in this fog.
You know what, all of that sucks and makes me as sad to read as I felt writing it. Last week, when I put down this quote and decided to write about it, it was almost inappropriate. I wish it wasn’t more appropriate a topic right now, because I feel all three.
So here it is. I offer my own special blend of 90% sympathy, 9% empathy and 1% pity. I know you’re hurting and I want it to stop. I kind of feel like I know a small piece of what you’re going through. I am terrified that you’re going to lose a piece of yourself. I am sorry if it tastes bitter, but it is all I have to offer. I am sorry if it burns, but it can’t be drank cold. Let us share a cup and talk. I know you have to get through this by yourself, but we can at least do this much together. It is not optional.