I feel your pain.” How many times have you said that to someone and had no idea how they really felt? I think that real empathy is rare. Most of us are capable of a kind of “selective empathy,” but the real thing often eludes us, which might be a good thing.
“Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another being (human or non-human) is experiencing from within the other being’s frame of reference,” according to Wikipedia. It’s the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. We generally acknowledge that empathy is a good thing. But, does it really make us more effective at helping others? What about sympathy? Empathy and sympathy are related but truly different. Empathy says, “I feel with you.” While sympathy says “I feel for you.”