The Daily Press word-of-the-day is Sympathy. In one definition of sympathy, the word empathy is given as a synonym. This is not entirely correct. For clarity’s sake, here are annotated definitions of sympathy, empathy, and apathy from Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language 1989.
Sympathy: harmony of or agreement of feelings, as between persons or on behalf of one person with respect to another; the fact or power of sharing the feelings of others.
Empathy: the intellectual identification with or a vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, and attitudes of others.
Apathy: lack of interest in or concern for things others find moving or exciting; indifference.
Example: I sympathize with someone who has lost a parent through death because I know what that is like. I empathize with someone who has lost a child through death because I can imagine what that is like.
The fact that we can sympathize and/or empathize with another person’s thoughts or feelings underscores the importance of finding your “no.” Without appropriate boundaries, feelings of sympathy or empathy can lead to emotional enmeshment. Left unchecked, “enmeshment can contribute to dysfunctional relationships, especially among family members, and can lead to a lack of autonomy and independence.” https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/enmeshment
In my opinion, fear of enmeshment is one of the reasons for apathy in a person—he or she sees sympathy and empathy as slippery slopes. People without an effective “no” cannot establish and maintain boundaries in their relationships. In their eyes, it is better to remain unengaged than to engage and get swallowed up in another person’s issues.
However, I think that one of the signs of emotional maturity is the ability to take emotional risks. An emotionally mature person is able to sympathize and empathize with the thoughts and feelings of others in a beneficial way. Finding your no is a key step to growth.