Empathy Versus Sympathy: Who Knew

I was at a board retreat this weekend and we were shown this video from game changer Brené Brown. I love Brené Brown and have read a number of her books, but this video hit me right between the eyes.

I remember once, when my favorite daughter (about whom I’m not allowed to write) shared with me a tale of woe about a subject now long forgotten. In my typical way of expressing sympathy, I said something about how it was sure a lot better than what that poor, starving kid in Africa was going through (shoot me now!). My daughter responded, “Why is it, Mom, when I’m upset about something that happened to me, you always have to make it about someone else’s pain? Can’t it just be about mine for a little while?” She was three. (Just kidding, but I assure you that she has always been wise beyond her years!)

My intention in pointing out that it’s not as bad as it could be, or that it will be better tomorrow, or that someone else’s suffering lends perspective to your own, was to try to lessen the load, not increase it. Silly, stupid me.

I have now watched the video three times. Here it is again, in case you missed the link in the first paragraph, here it is again.

The pathetic thing is that I can’t wait for my daughter’s next crisis so I can put the lesson to use. God, what is wrong with me?

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