Human beings possess an extraordinary quality invisible to the naked eye: the ability to imagine how someone else feels in a difficult situation. The word that describes this quality is sympathy and we must not confuse it with empathy, which has a broader meaning and includes also understanding feelings of people who are in a better situation.
When you have the power of understanding another person’s feelings, you are also the owner of a fantastic quality intrinsically attached to humankind: the faculty of producing mental images of what has not been experienced. It is known as your mind’s eye or imagination. Sympathy and empathy, both need this power to exist.
In layman terms, sympathy is feeling sorrow and compassion, but also showing charity and humanity. Empathy, on the other hand, is purely and simply putting youself in another’s shoes, whether those shoes were luxury or humble.
But, why do humans feel sympathy? If evolution was supposed to favour those who are fitter, where is the need to feel the misfortunes of others? Does not sympathy make you weaker, at least emotionally? In my opinion, social intelligence is one of the cornerstones of humanity, being empathy, but more importantly sympathy, the driving force of social intelligence.
Without being sympathetic, and thus showing a genuine interest in other causes, solidarity or sustainability would have never been considered. Aloofness does produce the contrary effect: meanness, hostility and lack of understanding about the essence of life. The big problems that our societies face can only be solved by using our mind’s eye to imagine how it would be to have a better world.
Without being sympathetic, and thus showing a genuine interest in other causes, hatred and intolerance pop up. In consequence, we cannot expect nothing but war, poverty and a plague of inequalities. And this is the reason why social intelligence is the force to be reckoned with, so we had better praise sympathy. Maybe, one day, these invisible forces will take over the world. Sympathy and empathy are highly evolutional traits that deserve attention and care.