Sunday Sayings – Empathy

Not my circus,

Not my monkeys

– Polish proverb

Credit to Ally from The Spectacled Bean for this proverb.

Empathy is the starting point for creating a community and taking action.

It’s the impetus for creating change

~ Max Carver

This is the only way forward if we are to avoid fear, hatred and at its extreme, racism, prejudice and extremism.

cool peace sign-girl-melbourne-graffiti

Empathy is defined as : having an affinity or rapport with, sympathy with, understanding of, sensitivity towards, sensibility to, identification with, awareness of, fellowship with, fellow feeling for, like-mindedness, togetherness, closeness to something or someone.

Postcards from over 100 years ago

It is closely linked with compassion.

Do you think empathy is intuitive or can it also be learned?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Join in the discussion by leaving a comment.

Everyone’s opinion is important.

Several years ago, I created ‘Proverbial Friday’ on my blog.

I became fascinated with traditional proverbs and sayings, their metaphorical layers and the many different interpretations found within just a few, succinct words. I marveled at their ability to transcend race, religion, opinions and age.

Mostly anonymous, proverbs are a portal through time to generations past and echo a diverse range of cultures.

They speak of the experiences of many lessons learned and the wisdom from thousands of lives already lived.

They offer us knowledge; knowledge that is passed to us in much the same way relay runners might pass a baton. Once it’s handed over, it is up to us what we do with it and how we pass it on.


46 thoughts on “Sunday Sayings – Empathy”

        1. Therein lies a big difference. I think you have enunciated that difference well. Also sympathy is expressed externally, and empathy expressed externally but also felt internally.


            1. I think once they go through difficulties and need empathy, they will maybe want to give it in return. Life is a journey which we must learn from and then give. We must sow good seeds to receive good fruit. Give what you want….

              Liked by 3 people

  1. For me everything begins by respecting others.
    Long ago I read a quote which has good influence on me, “everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.”

    Liked by 6 people

  2. Empaths have it hard, and are often depressed, for a reason too. My amore can get distressed because the cashier lady is having a bad day. “How do you mean you didn’t notice it? She was trembling.” And I consider myself an empath as well. I will never know how it feels to be him. I guess that’s why he so often detaches.

    I’ve seen a continuation of ‘Not my circus, not my monkeys’ but can’t find it now. Something like: You are whole when you realise that these indeed are your monkeys. Are this your girl and your window? Beautiful.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It is my beautiful girl, Manja, but not my window. That was taken in Melbourne in the street where there is a lot of art graffiti. Your amore sounds like a sensitive guy. And you feel like you are an empath too? We need more folks like you to balance out the cruel aspects of our world. How did you discover you both were empaths? Or did you always know?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I suppose that I figured it out as I was reading about it. And amore told me upon meeting that when he watched The Green Mile, he felt like the main character resembled him considerably. We are intuitive and we know things. He would say it’s a burden. I would not but he is more.

        She is beautiful for real. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Thank you for those kind words, Manja. ❤ You will see her pop up in posts at various ages, depending on content. She is doing a handstand in one of the recent posts!
          A burden? Yes, but it can be a blessing if you listen to it – your intuition. I didn't use to trust it, but it is almost always right. My girl is also very intuitive. And sensitive. Not always an easy way to be in the modern world.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the shoutout. Much appreciated. I learned that proverb from a good friend whose parents were born in Poland. My friend says that they said if often. Glad I could pass it on here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Ally. It really helps us to be aware of our boundaries. If not for others then for own limitations in terms of energy, not becoming too overstretched, or being perceived as interfering. Sometimes it is difficult to refuse a request for help, when in your heart, you know that person would be better off, or even needsto be, doing things for themselves.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes, I’ve meet a few sympathetic people in my life, but in comparison really only a handful of those have any real empathy. I enjoyed your comments – and now I understand why so few people show any real empathy. They just don’t have it in them in the first place.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Chris. No, it seems that in order to exhibit empathy, you need to be open and listen to others and their perspectives. It seems to help if you are able to put aside your own views and understand where the other person’s and their attitude is coming from in taking that view (sometimes very difficult). In doing so, guard your own attitude. I guess it is quite an abstract thought which is probably why folks with ASD find it difficult to process.


    1. Hmm, I was thinking about walking away from conflict just today, Lisa. In terms of the world and its conflict, nations can not continue to simply walk away when they disagree with another. I think good communication is a much undervalued skill and we all need to become better at it. When we don’t have the words to express what we mean, we cannot hope to solve disagreements.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I do agree.. nations pick up guns way too quickly.. It’s not just communication but a willingness to accept differences and live harmoniously with them.. I’m sure there would be less fanaticism..

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I love quotes and proverbs. Not my circus was a real favourite of mine for a while – I used it to remind me to stop trying to control everything and let some of it go (esp when it wasn’t mine to own in the first place!) Also, Brene Brown has a great youtube defining empathy that I’ve enjoyed and re-watched a few times.
    Lovely to meet you – and thanks for visiting my blog x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Leanne. I will look up Brene Brown on empathy. That sounds interesting.
      Quotes and proverbs are wonderful messages of guidance left for us to ponder by others who have faced similar problems. I relish their wisdom and the multitude of meanings contained within their wise words. I agree with your comment about the monkeys proverb. Whilst noone wants to be that person who doesn’t want to get ‘involved,’ there has to be a boundary that only the people in each particular situation, can identify and respect. If we respect those boundaries we can still be a good friend to others, whilst protecting ourselves from becoming too exhausted by another’s issues. In this way, our assistance is not taking away any opportunity for those folk to learn how to manage their own lives and decisions independently. My son gave me this sageful advice when he said it was not my responsibility if he did not listen to my suggestions meaning I must allow him the freedom to make mistakes for that is HIS responsibility. As parents we sometimes fall in the trap of wanting to warn of, or prevent mishaps we foresee might happen to our kids, in the future, but in doing so, the adult children might read this as communicating to them a lack of confidence, by the parent, in their ability to manage a problem. So the Monkeys proverb was very meaningful for me this week. Was the relevance of the proverb for you to do with people or things, if you don’t mind me asking? (No need to give any details.)


    2. I just looked up the video on you tube you mentioned and that explains empathy in a nutshell. We all want to make things better for others who are in “a hole,” but we can’t always do that. We like to give reassurance, and give folks some ‘advice’ to work on, reassure them that things will pass; things will get better; or we question them and try to encourage them to move forward: What are you going to do now? The response in the youtube video: I don’t know what to say conveys empathy, but also may make the person with the problem, feel bad for putting the listener into an awkward situation. Sometimes, I will say,” It sucks” – and the other person gets that I know what they meant. What other response have you found works, Leanne?


  6. Amanda, this is a fascinating post! I believe true empathy is intuitive…and it’s not easy for others to fully understand and can be exhausting at times. You’re right that it is linked closely with passion. Lovely photos to accompany your article and your daughter looks delightful!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi and thank you, Annika, Good to hear that you think empathy is intuitive? I do believe we have a genetic disposition to feel or learn empathy and some do not have either. These are the people who find it difficult to understand other’s feelings or put themselves in the other’s shoes. The sociopaths/psychopathic persons. I think many of the rest of us, do not know how to handle difficult situations, might even panic a little when someone is very emotional and when this happens, they fall back on responses they have heard in their lives: “It is okay/ you will get over it/ cheer up/ get over it/ take your mind off it/ what can you do etc. ” None of these are helpful as they seek to normalize, or dismiss how the person is feeling. Validating that their emotions are real and justified is the first step I think. Like people, there is no one right response, but a good response is one that “fits” what the person might need to hear at that moment. Not in terms of advice, but in terms of hey, no wonder you feel the way you do, given the circumstances. Is there anything I can do to help? In this way, empathy seems closely linked to compassion.How do you handle those delicate situations where empathy is required, Annika?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Amanda, I loved reading your thoughts here. My grandmother was, my mother, son and I are very empathetic in that we can read/feel a room or persons emotions straight away… if very negative I can feel overwhelmed and actually ill. For someone in need I agree, the worst thing to say, is that everything is okay. It obviously isn’t! I try to focus on the next step, breaking the issue down into manageable parts, to then talk about something totally different. Even just having a cup of tea, the normal can be of great emotional support.


        1. Great discussion! Thank you, Annika! I am not that surprised that you are empathic as it does come through in your comments and blog posts. Negativity and bad vibes can make the bravest person feel ill at ease. No wonder the term is called ‘ill at ease.” And it’s funny you should speak about the normalizing effect of having a cup of tea, as my late father-in-law said that, in the event of a crisis, one should sit down and have a cup of tea. He belived it calmed the nerves and settled the anxiety so clear thinking could prevail. Breaking down a problem into manageable steps is also sound advice, Annika. It ameliorates that feeling of being overwhelmed or swamped with emotional and sensory stimuli and grounds the mind by allowing it to concentrate on one small task, at a time. Whilst distracting people from their problems might be perceived as burying their problems, or deferring them, (albeit temporarily), uncontrolled emotions can lead to rash decisions that are later regretted. I think if you are able to move their focus on to another subject from the one causing them distress, they might be then able to regain some distance and perspective which, in turn might give them more clarity around their problem. This to is empathy. You can relate and feel what the person is feeling and still doing something to help.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. I just read – empathy gives you an idea of just what is going on in the other lessons head. Then also this:
    The bottom line? Empathy is distinct from compassion. Empathy is a method of data gathering about the experiences of the other person; compassion tells one what to do about it, based on one’s ethics and values. Clever words.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Beautiful proverbs! I think empathie can be learnt. If people try to listen more and be silent more often, for me this is the first step to learn. That means not that I have to agree to everyone‘s opinion, but I will certainly hear some interesting things that I never would have heard otherwise.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great to hear from you, Anie!! I have missed your comments and wordpress says your site had been deleted so I can’t visit.
      What yo said is so true. Listening is the very first step and the most important step. But one can be silent and not learn empathy if the mind is not open to seeing the other side or other perspectives. I also think that you do not have to agree with another perspective in order to empathize. Listening to the other persons argument is showing first and foremost respect for their opinion, but you do not have to change your mind or side with themin order to ‘feel’ as they might. You can offer a different opinion and hopefully that will also be respected but still understand where they are coming from in reaching that conclusion.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sorry Amanda, I had really to reduce my internet-time, but it is always very stimulating to read your beautiful proverbs and discussions…: )…so I will certainly intervene now and then! I deleted my own site long time ago. I realized very soon, that I am not a blogger,… I have not even a lot to say..; )…but I love to read about others opinion and to learn pondering!
        You are so right, first you have to be open to listen and see others perspective…I forgot that certainly most people do not even want to be open for others. I do not find it difficult to understand others, even if my opinion is different. In turn, I find it very difficult to help people who have problems, because I know that all the advice that I can give, is from their perspective very difficult to follow. In principle, it is the case that every person can only be happy if they go their own way, which they considers right. Therefore, no moral sermons, pressure or punishments help. In your own doing and happiness, you can show them that you chose a good way and maybe they decide to chose a similar way by their own.
        I think I’ve always been very empathic, at least I have always been very compassionated … I could not watch a movie with sad scenes as a child without crying and seeing an old helpless person triggers a stinging in my stomach still today. I wish you a beautiful day and hope to participle soon again at your wonderful blog!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Compassion is an essential ingredient in empathy, Anie and I do love to read your comments. We have had some in depth discussions. It is a shame you don’t have a blog anymore or think you are a blogger, because you write some wonderful comments. I recently read a wordpress article that suggested that comments are meant for short sentences and that if you want to make a long comment you should write a new blog post and add a pingback. I don’t think that helps other readers follow the conversation thread on the initial post but it has some merit. Would this be something worth considering?

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Thank you Amanda for your wonderful and gentle words. I enjoy a lot to take sometimes part of your beautiful and interesting blog. There is always something to ponder and I learn a lot for myself. Yes compassion is an ingredient of empathy, but I think not everyone who feels compassion is automatically empathetic, or? Haha you are so right with both. If the comments are as long, there would be for sure enough thoughts to fill an own blog, but on the other hand there must be also reader and commenters, not only bloggers😁 . Amanda I have so much things in mind I want to do and life is not always as simple as it was once. Time is a treasure and anyway we waste so much in unimportant things. But this is human and I think the most important thing is to prioritize as your heart tells you … and therefore it is o.k. That I deleted my blog…. maybe somewhere in further future 🙂have a wonderful werkend!

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Time is a treasure indeed and we spend far too much at the keyboards these days. I like the way you said: prioritize what the heart tells you and it is okay. If reading and commenting is enough for you, it is enough. I look forward to whatever time you can devote to reading and commenting on my blog. It is always a pleasure to read your views and perspectives. I feel blessed to have you visit, as I do with all who take the time to write a thoughtful comment. Thank you, Anie.

              Liked by 1 person

Everyone is important. What do you have to say?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.