With the way people are acting these days - heartless, crazy, totally immoral - I've been examining my own heart and soul. I do this every now and then because my mother taught me to. I had to be a teenager when she first gave me the talk about being more than someone breathing up the air in the world. It's important, she used to tell me, to take a good look at yourself every now and then. Need to make sure you're all right with God, self and others. Need to make sure you haven't forgotten to be a decent human, planet co-resident and all that.
A part of being decent (according to my mother, and therefore according to me) is to have sympathy, empathy and love. Each has their own place in a heart that's not frozen solid with selfishness.
Sympathy is defined in many ways, but it comes from a Latin word meaning "to have common feelings." (And, yes, I had to look that up once.)
It's easy to have sympathy without having a heart for others. We all have common feelings about being broke or pissed off or in love. My having a feeling in common with yours does not have to mean that I give a damn about you.
I am too lazy to look up "Empathy," but I have always considered myself an empath (whether it's a word or not), so I'll give you Free's definition: to feel with another person. That's it. I love being an empath and I hate being an empath. I love that it can give you a joy that you might have missed out on. I hate that it also can hurt. It can pull you into and under the weight of someone else's misery. (Do I wish to lose my ability to empathize? Nope. I don't think I could live without it. It is what Christians were taught by Christ. He came, not just to die for us, but to feel as we feel. But that's for me and my beliefs. You have your own to deal with.)
Love is defined all over the place, but is (for me, at least) still undefinable. The word itself comes from Latin for "to please." That makes sense. Love is what it is to each individual. "To please" me is different from pleasing the next or other person. (I really hope this is all making some sort of sense.)
I don't think it matters how we define anything as long as we keep the essence of what it means to care enough. I don't sympathize for, empathize with or love everyone. (There are moments when I can't stand myself.) But I do care. My mother taught me that.