perception, understanding, and reaction to the distress or need of another human being
(Redirected from Sympathies)

Sympathy is a social affinity in which one person stands with another person, closely understanding his or her feelings. It also can mean being affected by feelings or emotions. Thus the essence of sympathy is that one has a strong concern for the other person.


  • Strengthen me by sympathizing with my strength not my weakness.
    • Amos Bronson Alcott, Table-Talk (Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1877), Bk II: Speculative, iv: The Lapse, § Sympathy, p. 169..
  • There is in souls a sympathy with sounds.
  • Sympathy beyond the confines of man, that is, humanity to the lower animals, seems to be one of the latest moral acquisitions.
    • Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man (1871), Ch. III: Comparison Of The Mental Powers Of Man And The Lower Animals; Concluding Remarks, p. 96.
  • How strange is the lot of us mortals! Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes thinks he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people — first of all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness is wholly dependent, and then for the many, unknown to us, to whose destinies we are bound by the ties of sympathy...
  • We often do more good by our sympathy than by our labors. A man may lose position, influence, wealth, and even health, and yet live on in comfort, if with resignation; but there is one thing without which life becomes a burden—that is human sympathy.
  • The capacity of sorrow belongs to our grandeur, and the loftiest of our race are those who have had the profoundest sympathies, because they have had the profoundest sorrows.
    • Henry Giles, "The Moral Spirit of Byron's Genius", in Lectures and Essays (Boston: Ticknor, Reed, And Fields, 1850), Vol. I, p 149.
  • He watch'd and wept, he pray'd and felt for all.
  • The craving for sympathy is the common boundary-line between joy and sorrow.
    • Julius Charles Hare, in Julius Charles Hare and Augustus William Hare, Guesses at Truth (London: Macmillan and Co., 1871), p. 530.
  • Tact is the result of refined sympathy.
    • Arthur Helps, Thoughts in the Cloister and the Crowd (Glasgow: Wilson & McCormick, 1883), p. 56.
  • Whatever the day brings, part of it always belongs to sympathy, for the well-being of men and states is ever changing. Thus observation and sympathy are the movements by which we make every moment of time our own—through which we properly live. When their pulse beats faintly, leisure becomes a burden; the bolder spirits then open the door of time and seek eternity.
    • Johann Friedrich Herbart, The Science of Education: Its General Principles Deduced from Its Aim and The Aesthetic Revelation of the World (Science of Education, 1806; Aesthetic Revelation, 1804), trans. Henry M. and Emmie Felkin (London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co., 1892), p. 194.
  • If children were brought into the world by an act of pure reason alone, would the human race continue to exist? Would not a man rather have so much sympathy with the coming generation as to spare it the burden of existence?
    • Arthur Schopenhauer, "On the Sufferings of the World," from The Essays of Schopenhauer selected and translated by Thomas Bailey Saunders [1]
  • For thou hast given me in this beauteous face,
    A world of earthly blessings to my soul,
    If sympathy of love unite our thoughts.
  • Certain it is, that as nothing can better do it, so there is nothing greater, for which God made our tongues, next to reciting His praises, than to minister comfort to a weary soul.
    • Jeremy Taylor, The Sermons of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor, D D. (Philadelphia: H. Hooker, 1845), Sermon XXV: "The Duties of the Tongue", p. 186.
  • The first time I dropped bombs on a target over there, I watched those things go down because we could do it in B-17s. I watched them go down. Then I watched those black puffs of smoke and fires in some instances. I said to myself, “People are getting killed down there that don’t have any business getting killed. Those are not soldiers."

    Well, then I had a thought that I had engendered and encountered for the first time in Cincinnati when I was going to medical school. I lived with a doctor. He would tell me about previous doctors, some that had been classmates of his, who were drug salesmen. [...] because they could not practice medicine due to the fact that they had too much sympathy for their patients. They assumed the symptoms of the patients and it destroyed their ability to render medical necessities. I thought, you know, I am just like that if I get to thinking about some innocent person getting hit on the ground. I am supposed to be a bomber pilot and destroy a target. I won’t be worth anything if I do that.

    • Paul Tibbets, captain of the Enola Gay during the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, in a 1987 interview [2]
  • I ask Thee for a thankful love,
    Through constant watching wise,
    To meet the glad with joyful smiles,
    And to wipe the weeping eyes,
    And a heart at leisure from itself,
    To soothe and sympathize.
  • There is poetry and there is beauty in real sympathy; but there is more—there is action. […] The noblest and most powerful form of sympathy is not merely the responsive tear, the echoed sigh, the answering look—it is the embodiment of the sentiment in actual help.
    • Octavius Winslow, The Sympathy of Christ with Man (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1862), Preface, pp. iii–iv.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 775-76.
  • Pity and need
    Make all flesh kin. There is no caste in blood.
  • But there is one thing which we are responsible for, and that is for our sympathies, for the manner in which we regard it, and for the tone in which we discuss it. What shall we say, then, with regard to it? On which side shall we stand?
    • John Bright, Speech on Slavery and Secession (Feb. 3, 1863).
  • In the desert a fountain is springing,
    In the wide waste there still is a tree,
    And a bird in the solitude singing,
    Which speaks to my spirit of thee.
  • Of a truth, men are mystically united: a mystic bond of brotherhood makes all men one.
  • Jobling, there are chords in the human mind.
  • Our souls sit close and silently within,
    And their own web from their own entrails spin;
    And when eyes meet far off, our sense is such,
    That, spider like, we feel the tenderest touch.
  • The secrets of life are not shown except to sympathy and likeness.
  • The man who melts
    With social sympathy, though not allied,
    Is of more worth than a thousand kinsmen.
  • We pine for kindred natures
    To mingle with our own.
  • Yet, taught by time, my heart has learned to glow
    For other's good, and melt at other's woe.
    • Homer, The Odyssey, Book XVIII, line 269. Pope's translation.
  • Bowels of compassion.
    • I John, III. 17.
  • World-wide apart, and yet akin,
    As showing that the human heart
    Beats on forever as of old.
  • For I no sooner in my heart divin'd,
    My heart, which by a secret harmony
    Still moves with thine, joined in connection sweet.
  • Never elated while one man's oppress'd;
    Never dejected while another's blessed.
  • Somewhere or other there must surely be
    The face not seen, the voice not heard,
    The heart that not yet—never yet—ah me!
    Made answer to my word.
  • If thou art something bring thy soul and interchange with mine.
  • It [true love] is the secret sympathy,
    The silver link, the silken tie,
    Which heart to heart, and mind to mind
    In body and in soul can bind.
    • Walter Scott, The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805), Canto V, Stanza 13.

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)

Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).

See also

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AltruismAsceticismBeneficenceBenevolenceBraveryCarefulnessCharityCheerfulnessCleanlinessCommon senseCompassionConstancyCourageDignityDiligenceDiscretionEarnestnessFaithFidelityForethoughtForgivenessFriendshipFrugalityGentlenessGoodnessGraceGratitudeHolinessHonestyHonorHopeHospitalityHumanityHumilityIntegrityIntelligenceJusticeKindnessLoveLoyaltyMercyModerationModestyOptimismPatiencePhilanthropyPietyPrudencePunctualityPovertyPuritySelf-controlSimplicitySinceritySobrietySympathyTemperanceTolerance

AggressionAngerApathyArroganceBigotryContemptCowardiceCrueltyDishonestyDrunkennessEgotismEnvyEvil speakingGluttonyGreedHatredHypocrisyIdlenessIgnoranceImpatienceImpenitenceIngratitudeInhumanityIntemperanceJealousyLazinessLustMaliceNeglectObstinacyPhilistinismPrejudicePretensionPrideRecklessnessSelf-righteousnessSelfishnessSuperficialityTryphéUnkindnessUsuryVanityWorldliness