Sympathy within a community—both physical and emotional— promotes a healthy respect for all people's feelings, brings about unity, and encourages compassion towards the less fortunate; driving community members to actively participate in the alleviation of other's suffering.


Every person living on earth experiences unique struggles. Individual's struggles are different, however, without sympathy selfish desires and disregard for others can cause unneeded problems and division within a community.

To have sympathy is to have an understanding of another human being's or animal's feelings, and being affected by the same thing that is affecting another. Sympathy, different from compassion, is not always coupled with the desire to help or relive another's pain, but rather it is the understanding of another person's suffering or pain. Sympathy can guide your feelings and choices, causing you to think of others, versus only yourself. Sympathy generally produces compassion(#) within a person and leads to the relief of suffering. Yet, despite the connection, the two are different. empathy(#) is also related to sympathy in the sense that it is the identification with an object. However, empathy is more direct in that one may project his or her own feelings onto another, directly feeling what the other person is experiencing. Sympathy is not feeling the feeling of another directly, but it is relating to the others feelings or situation and imagining yourself in the same situation.

Sympathy occurs when a person is able to recognize that their actions not only affect themselves, but others too. Thus, a sympathetic person is apt to think of others who are being affected by their choices before they make a decision. They do not base their choices solely on their own feelings, but the feelings of a group. By exercising sympathy within a community or group a person can bring about unity and cooperation(#). By having an understanding and identifying with another person's feelings, the level of respect usually rises and choices are made to benefit everyone involved. Sympathy, at times, can take a great deal of humility on the part of the person showing another sympathy. However, it is important to realize that you are no better than the person you are helping, and they are no better than you, they have simply fallen on harder times. Sympathy involves the consideration of another's feelings, and can drive a person to help out of compassion if someone is in need.

Recently, I noticed an older gentleman on the corner of the road standing in the rain. It was apparent that the rain had soaked through his clothes and I just happened to have a spare coat in my backseat. I sympathized with the man knowing what it feels like to be sopping wet. As I stopped at the red light, I reached into my backseat and gave the grateful man my coat. Internally I do not know how this affected the man, but I do know that he was warmer then he was before he had the coat. I exercised sympathy, rather than driving by indifferently and pretending not to notice the needs of another human being. The man was able to experience a sense of community even though him and I are not on the same level socially or financially. This promotes wholeness, and a sense of being one. It is also true of groups and the community as a whole. When my mother was diagnosed with cancer and was unable to work, others rallied around her showing their support. At her office, out of sympathy, people took turns making dinner for our family. Her co-workers also gave up their own sick time and vacation hours so that she was able to be paid while at home trying to recover. The sympathy of others made her feel one with her office, and the actions of her co-workers demonstrated an understanding of her suffering.

A problem of living in a large community at times is the division among its members. Division occurs when people are unable to relate to one another's views, life experiences, or feelings. When people do not exercise sympathy on a daily basis they tend to forget about those who exist outside of their immediate vicinity. It is not always intentional, however, it is easy to overlook a certain group of people who you do not see, or associate with them. This sometimes intentional or unintentional obliviousness causes separation and can even cause anger or fear among community members.

For example, homeless people are often mocked and shunned on the streets. I saw one man spit towards a homeless man, and tell him to do something with his life and contribute to society. When this happens the homeless people become angry at the community members who are unable to sympathize with their plight. This can lead to the homeless person acting out aggressively and instilling fear within those who witness or are the victims of their aggression. The aggression is not justified, but is usually in retaliation towards those who are unsympathetic. This as I said above, causes the division and speration that does not benefit cooperation or community.

To effectively live among others one must be sympathetic towards their needs. Sympathy causes unity, and encourages actively helping those in need. When people get together with a common goal in mind, much can be accomplished. Homelessness could be decreased, and discrimination could be abolished if we all exercised more sympathy towards others. Rather than judge someone, out of sympathy, help the person. Find the homeless person a job, give him a few extra dollars, and help him to feel apart of a community. Sympathy produces a healthy respect for all people no matter their situation or predicament. We all struggle with certain things and at certain times we all need sympathy and a little help. The world could be changed if we were to embrace the idea of sympathy, and realize that what affects one, affects many.


Ensure that the people's needs around you are met, and do your part to help if you are able to. Consider the feelings of others and what effect your actions may have on them. Encourage smaller communities within your job, at school ,or in other activities. Offer to make dinner if a co-worker is sick, drop off food at the food back, join a community service project, and establish places of support and care for those in need.

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