Empathy is the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another. Sympathy and empathy both refer to a caring response to the emotional state of another person, but a distinction between them is typically made: while sympathy is a feeling of sincere concern for someone who is experiencing something difficult or painful, empathy involves actively sharing in the emotional experience of the other person. Sympathy has been in use since the 16th century, and its wider breadth of meanings include a feeling of loyalty and unity or harmony in action or effect. … Empathy was modeled on sympathy; it was coined in the early 20th century and was first applied in contexts of philosophy, aesthetics, and psychology, empathy continues to have technical use in those fields that sympathy does not. Compassion and empathy both refer to a caring response to someone else’s distress. While empathy refers to an active sharing in the emotional experience of the other person, compassion adds to that emotional experience a desire to alleviate the person’s distress.Merriam-Webster Dictionary

“Empathy is a combination of imagination and Love of God, which enables you to see another’s viewpoint and the reasons for his needs.”—Edna Lister

Empathy, which is important in the development of a moral sense and ethics, can be described as emotional common sense, tact and diplomacy. Empathy is the ability to imagine oneself in another’s place and understand his feelings, desires, ideas, motives, and actions. Empathy, an innate soul quality, is similar to compassion, in that a soul who has dispensed with empathy may be forced to suffer in order to relearn it. An empathetic soul knows what it is like to walk a mile in the other fellow’s shoes. >Empathy, being rooted in love and compassion, is both an absolute and an abstract principle; it is also a spiritual faculty, and a soul virtue.

Edna Lister on Empathy

You must possess seven qualities in full measure to attain honor: Purity, humility, compassion, empathy, loyalty, sincerity, and gratitude. You must live honorably with loyalty to principle, to God and integrity of soul.—Edna Lister, A Design for Ascension, 1941.

Empathy begins with the desire to give understanding. This most often means listening to the other fellow and hearing what he has to say and what he thinks, and to find out why he says and thinks as he does. Empathy sets aside subconscious self-pity and pride, becomes courteous and holds no resentment. To master this in your being is to be a creator god.—Edna Lister, October 8, 1947.

Compassion nourishes, but sympathy starves the soul. No one can afford soft sympathy, but everyone can afford to be firmly compassionate.—Edna Lister, October 5, 1952.

Develop empathy, which is born of Christlike compassion, because self-based sympathy invites life to kick your teeth in. The magnetic world vibration or composite subconscious world mind whirls up through your feet to swamp you when you look out horizontally or down at the negative. Pour out compassion, which is Christ consciousness, instead of sympathy that only opens you farther to the world mind influx.—Edna Lister, The Golden Silence, June 18, 1954.

Some would rather wallow in weak sympathy instead of strong compassion.—Edna Lister, December 5, 1954.

Compassionate empathy isn’t emotional sentimentality or sympathy that undermines another’s strength, but a quiet, nurturing love that encourages growth. Compassion lives in the light of love. Sentimental emotional sympathy lives in the darkness of self.—Edna Lister, Three Covenants Between God and Man, December 15, 1959.

Empathy is a combination of imagination and Love of God, which enables you to see another’s viewpoint and the reasons for his needs.—Edna Lister, October 20, 1960.

Do not let tears hold you back—go on and learn the lesson. You need empathy without sympathy and compassion without sentimentality.—Edna Lister, Fourteen Stations of the Cross, April 17, 1962.

Empathy is a combination of imagination and the love of God going forth, a complete understanding of what others are going through. This is true compassion.—Edna Lister, July 31, 1965.

Sympathy must become empathy.—Edna Lister, How to Make a Just Appraisal, May 14, 1968.

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Edna Miriam Lister
The original Pioneering Mystic,
Christian Platonist philosopher, American Idealist, Founder, Society of the Universal Living Christ, minister, teacher, author, wife, and mother.

Edna Lister

Etymology of empathy: Greek empatheia, "passion," from en‑ "in" + pathos "feeling."

Empathy is an absolute principle.

Empathy is an target="_blank">abstract principle.

Empathy is a soul faculty.

Empathy is a soul virtue.


The Compact Edition of The Oxford English Dictionary: 2 volumes. Oxford University Press, 1971.

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