Now I agree with Karen. So let's define empathy as some kind of emotion-sharing (though even that is contested). Empathy, *properly understood*, is less than sympathy or compassion & a servant to sympathy. Here’s how I’ve sought to explain the relationship. Call this Empathy (A).
On the other hand, as Karen’s timeline demonstrates, empathy, *commonly understood* is regarded as an improvement upon sympathy. It’s a deeper & more loving response to the hurting. Call this Empathy (B). Brene Brown is a prominent advocate of this:
Note that Empathy (B) *withholds judgment.* As a result, Empathy (B) as *frequently practiced* is untethered from truth & ungoverned by reason. It finds itself at the mercy of the sufferer’s feelings & easily loses sight of the sufferer’s true & lasting good.
It is thereby susceptible to emotional manipulation, and it’s in this latter sense that we can talk about “the sin of empathy" and the dangers of empathy and so forth.
So again: 1) Empathy (A), properly understood, is less than sympathy & the servant of sympathy. 2) Empathy (B), commonly understood & frequently practiced, is regarded as superior to sympathy & involves a dangerous untethering from truth and judgment.
We might call these tethered empathy & untethered, or governed & ungoverned. And crucially, Empathy (B) is thus a distortion or corruption of Empathy (A). But (and this is the key thing) *BOTH of them go by the name “empathy.”*
The common term is what creates confusion and raises a question of rhetorical strategy when seeking to expose it. The question is this: Is it legitimate to expose a real sin by using its assumed (good) name? I submit that the answer is yes.