Empathy vs. Sympathy

In 1855, Walt Whitman described his reaction to a person in pain in his poem “Song of Myself.”


  • I do not ask a wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded person, My hurt turns livid upon me as I lean on a cane and observe.


What did the poet mean when he said that he would “become the wounded person?” Would his transformation be an example of empathy or sympathy? What’s the difference?


The words are easy to confuse. They are both derived from Greek, and the spelling only differs by a couple of letters. Here is a comparison of these two powerful terms…


Sympathy derives from Greek words meaning “with feeling.” The word is most commonly used to describe the way we share someone else’s feelings, especially feelings of sorrow or trouble…..


Empathy The Greek phrase that lends empathy its meaning is “passion from feelings or emotion.

by Shundalyn Allen