To show empathy is to identify with another person's feelings. It is to emotionally put yourself in the place of another. The ability to empathize is dependent on your ability to feel your own feelings and identify them. Sympathy is simply recognizing one's pleasure or sufferings. You might not experience that persons pain, like would you using empathy, but you feel bad for them.
Empathy is relating. Some people can relate to an experience you have had or are having and some people cannot. However, I think that Empathy and Sympathy both have a lot to do with compassion. When I was younger I was molested and raped by an older sibling. Someone who was family. I was a kid and he was kid. I think that in a way we both thought that what he was doing was normal. My parents never spoke up about it and they saw it happening. The situation was unfortunate, but it is an experience that has led me to feel empathy for children abused by family members and also, because I love my brother...for those who sexually abuse. Because my brother and I have both healed from the sexual trauma, I`d say that I am even more empathetic towards sexual offenders, because I know that with help and motivation healing is possible. My parents are a bit funnier about it because my brother is their son and he has a 5 year old and a fiance now...they think nothing of his sexual abusing past, but when they hear about a sexual offender moving into the area, they put up fliers and hold meetings on how to get that person out of there. Why the difference between my parents and myself...we went through it together. The only difference that I can piece together is that I had a relationship with God, who is a God of compassion. I`m not saying that my parents aren`t compassionate, because my mom will feed any mouth that comes hungrily to her door. She will give anyone the jacket off of her back. My dad allows strangers to sleep on his couch. It all chalks up to the different perspectives of events and the emotions that we feel. What we feel for most. Sometimes we are not affected at all. Everybody has the ability to show sympathy, but sometimes you have to have gone through something, to relate to it to.
Another area where I think I can personally show empathy is in the debate of Homosexuality and Christians...dahn dahn dahn dahnn. Growing up, I had a gay uncle and my parents were okay with his lifestyle. However, my dad often told homophobic jokes around the house and my mom (being a Mormon) thought that it was wrong to be gay. I wound up becoming a christian when I was sent to a bible camp at age 8. From then on, I attended church by myself. I remember sermons preached on sin and homosexuality was one of the sins. In my head I truly thought that being gay was against God`s plan, so I told random strangers and even my uncle that being gay meant hell. I understand that belief now, I don`t agree with it anymore. After going through high school and college (bible college) without any serious boyfriends, I found the love of my life. From day one she took my breathe away. Within weeks I fell in love and yet, still loved God. I battled with what my head was taught and what my heart felt, so I studied the topic at hand with the bible and history. I looked to the original languages used. In a round about way I asked professors and theologians what they thought about being gay. I studied hard. I came to the conclusion that God made me out of love and that love is captivating. Jesus never disagreed with homosexuality. Heather`s love for me felt just as powerful as that of God. Anyway, all that to say that I feel compassion for those who truly believe that homosexuality is a sin (however, I do not condone the actions often taken place because of that and I also do not condone the lack of constitutional rights!) and I feel compassion for those who are gay (like myself) and in love, but unable to express it because their country or family doesn`t support them. I also feel a positive amount of empathy for those who are supported and accepted by their loved ones.
To end on a quick note...I am quite the rambler. Off I go to tear me down some wallpaper...literally.