Is empathy or sympathy more powerful?

Blogging from A to Z Challenge 2016
E: Empathy

empathy: the ability to share someone else’s feelings; experiencing the feelings, thoughts and experience of another without having them fully communicated in an explicit manner.

sympathy: the feeling that you care and are sorry about someone else’s trouble, grief, misfortune, etc.

copywriting: empathy v sympathy

The following is part of a story used to raise funds for a children’s hospital:

Lying on her back for yet another routine ultrasound, Paje Jones and her husband, Brian, reminded the doctor that they didn’t want to know the baby’s gender.

What they learned instead was that their unborn child had a large mass around her tiny heart.

Called a pericardial teratoma, the tumor, though benign, was so large – and growing – that it threatened the child’s life. But Paje was only 27 weeks into her pregnancy, and the fetus was still developing eyes and a central nervous system.

You may think I ought to make people feel sympathetic to this family. If readers feel sympathy, then they’ll want to help. And believe me, you don’t have to spend too much time in a children’s hospital to feel sympathy.

But when people read that story, I want them to feel empathy, not sympathy. I want them to feel a little bit of what these parents felt when they went from excited at the ultrasound to devastated by the news of a tumor. I don’t want them to feel sorry; I want them to feel awestruck that a surgeon could remove a tumor that almost surrounded a newborn’s heart without any complications. I want them to feel the relief and joy of a new baby girl put into their arms, healed.

That’s how I define storytelling.

Please visit my fellow bloggers taking part in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge 2016.






2 thoughts on “Is empathy or sympathy more powerful?

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