Compassion vs Sympathy?
by Gina Capristo-Gajdosik
Looking back on the tragedy of Sandy Hook Elementary School and all the tributes and news reports that resulted, something didn’t seem “right” to me about the response of some people, and yet I felt unsure of what I was questioning. My response was not what I had witnessed from others; people so moved they cried for weeks, some of them even traveled thousands of miles to bring pies to Newtown or make super hero capes for the students. I felt as though there was something wrong with me. It’s not that I wasn’t sad. I felt awful for the victims and their families and I can’t say it didn’t affect me, but it wasn’t until I read this quote in one of my fav books, Personal Power through Awareness by Sanaya Roman, that I realized what was going on: “It is important to experience compassion rather than sympathy.” And right then, I realized the difference, the energetic difference. When you feel sympathy for anyone, you begin to vibrate with them and take that lower energy into yourself. When you come from compassion, you do not bring in their lower energy. This is how doctors and social workers are able to do their jobs without falling apart.
Certainly, the Sandy Hook mass killing of innocent children and their teachers was difficult even for the professionals, but it is true that compassion assists in the healing where sympathy does not. Often the most loving thing you can do for people is to stand by while they learn their lessons. If you come in and act as their savior, you may take away their lessons and their subsequent growth. Focus light on them and help when it is asked, but not unless or until. Even empathy can be a slippery slope. Any empathetic individual who does not have clear boundaries can take on energy that is not theirs and this can be problematic. People who consider themselves to be empaths need to learn how to set their boundaries, otherwise they can’t help people, without hurting themselves. There is power in communicating your love and compassion, given at the right time. However, when there are no words, there are no words. When there is nothing that can help take the pain away, there is nothing to do but send silent blessings of light. I now understand that the enormous out-pouring of teddy bears and tributes made the sympathizers feel better, less helpless. As for the victims who survived, the families, the EMT’s, policemen and the greater Sandy Hook community it would take a great deal of time and professional help from social workers and other professionals to help them get through this horrific event; not get over it, but work through it and get to a place where they can function again. We thought this event in American history was an anomaly, but instead it was the start of numerous mass shootings that can only be attributed to too many guns on the streets of this country, and a perpetuance of violence in our souls.