Pity Party

Unsympathetic society skews meaning of empathy

Charlotte Rooney, Opinion Editor

“Sympathetic or kindly sorrow evoked by the suffering, distress or misfortune of another.”

That’s the dictionary definition of pity.

Pity is supposed to be compassion and empathy for another person. Lately, it’s been delivered in a high-pitched squeak and a hug, which is apparently supposed to make me feel better.

Pity is now used as a veil to talk about your own problems.

Instead of having a real, meaningful conversation with me, a simple “I’m sorry” and then starting in on your problems is what feeling bad for someone has become.

I get it — sometimes someone else’s problems seem like nothing compared to yours, but here’s the deal — they are just as important.

You getting into a screaming match with your mom may upset you as much as someone’s boyfriend or girlfriend breaking up with them. And in order to get the compassion and kindness you need, the person you’re talking to needs the same thing.

Saying sorry doesn’t cut it. Asking what you can do to help, giving advice and saying you love or care about that person are all ways to comfort someone. Reassuring them and making sure they know you’ve got their back are important during this conversation because that’s what you would like to hear.

Pity has gotten a bad rep because it’s misused for personal benefit.

Don’t ask someone how they’re doing because you want them to ask you.

Don’t use pity to make yourself look nice or caring.

Don’t use it to seem like a good friend if you really don’t care.

One of the worst things you can do to someone is pretend you care about them — no one wants to talk to someone about a problem they’re having if they really aren’t interested in helping them.

When asking someone how they’re doing or if they’re OK, you should expect a tidal wave of hurt feelings and anger. If you can’t handle that, then don’t ask.

You should ask how someone is doing because you genuinely care about and want to help that person, not because you’re going to get something out of it.

Next time one of your friends seems upset, ask them how they’re really doing, and be there for them.

That’s what you would want them to do for you.

Easy Ways to Show You Care