Scott McKnight

ARTICLE: Empathy is a Virtue

March 15, 2021
by Scot McKnight

The Centrality of Empathy for Godly Pastors

From the best I can tell these denouncers of empathy are distinguishing the virtue of compassion from the potential vice of empathy.

  1. compassion - “suffer with

    1. Merriam-Webster’ : sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it.

  2. empathy - “to suffer in.” Or, to “feel with” and “feel in.”

    1. Merriam-Webster’ the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.

    2. the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it.

    3. Jean Decety: "Empathy is a concept central to psychiatry, psychotherapy and clinical psychology. The construct of empathy involves not only the affective experience of the other person's actual or inferred emotional state but also some minimal recognition and understanding of another's emotional state."

"It appears to me the recent proponents of diminishing empathy are not only basing their definition on etymology, they are ignoring standard definitions and in so doing are misdefining the both compassion and empathy. They then invent their own definitions, extrapolate to something out of line, equate that with empathy, and then castigate a genuinely important act — empathy — as a result. "

Fifth, lack of empathy characterizes narcissism

The fear some people today of getting lost in another’s pain is a chimera and diversion. Empathizing is the calling of the pastor. Pastors without empathy are not being pastoral.