Monday, October 18, 2010

Blinded by Sympathy

"What makes sympathy so weak is its lack of objectivity."  Love and Responsibility by Karol Wotyla

Writing about the path from sympathy to friendship, Wotyla in his book, Love and Responsibility, writes that "one in sympathy" may be thought of as one who experiences with;  it means above all else, that what results in the way of emotional energy, is energy which strongly tends to unite persons. In the event of sympathy, the uniting of persons arises as a direct response to their feelings and emotional response to external events.
"This is something which happens to them, and is not the direct result of an act of  [free] will. Sympathy is a manifestation of experiences rather than activities... the will is captured by the force of those emotions and pulled along." Sympathy is love at a purely emotional stage without any act of choosing. "At most the will consents to its existence and to the direction it takes."

When we find ourselves sympathetic to another, we find that the other is in our 'emotional energy range,' and that an emotional response is awakened by their presence. "This response is awakened with my sympathy, and may also die with it, since it depends upon my emotional attitude to the person who is the object of my sympathy."
There then is a weakness present in sympathy such that without the action of the will, sympathy persists; it tends to blind and obscure the innate value of the person. Sympathy in itself is not friendship and cannot constitute a love for others, despite the reality that at least initially, it pulls one another into a single orbit and makes the persons feel emotionally close.
It may and does creates some of the conditions for true friendship and love to arise, but without a conscious desire of goodwill and benevolence, 'I want what is good for you,' a simple, sympathetic relationship falters.

While sympathy may at times pass for goodwill, its effect is not long lasting. It is illusion. For what is real, remains. It is here that sympathy may be blinding. Often persons, acting under the sphere of pure emotion, mistake it for friendship.
As a result, for example, marriages may be based not on friendship, a direct act of will, but on sympathy; if one does not engage the will, at some point the marital relationship dissolves. In  friendship, the act of choosing, the desire of what is 'for the goodwill for another' is actively and necessarily engaged. Both friendship and goodwill are absent in relationships founded in mere sympathy.

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