Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. In “not so good situations” I believe it is tightly knit with compassion.
Example, your neighbour wins the lottery, I don’t think anybody would feel compassion for this neighbour but, we can put ourselves and his position and feel what it would be like if we won the lottery ourselves. The excitement, the plans, the fear, the happiness, etc. etc. This would be empathy, but not necessarily compassion.
Another example, you find out your neighbour can’t pay the rent (for whatever reason, he lost his job, bad investment, an emergency that left him without cash) and he is a nervous wreck. If you have lived this situation closely, be it own experience or having seen it before, you can easily put yourself in his position. “Oh, I don’t know what I would do!”, “That’s a massive headache”, “What’s he going to do for food?” That’s empathy……”Oh, the poor guy, maybe we should help”, “hey I heard this place is hiring maybe I should let him know”, “I will pray for him because that situation is very difficult”, that’s compassion.
Sadly (or happily) I have been cursed (or blessed) with a compassionate heart. Even as a child, I would deeply feel the suffering of others even if I did not understand why they suffered. Hardly ever a nice feeling, always sad when somebody else was sad or unhappy, which was quite often.
But not until I was an adult and had gone through my own hardships did I understand why people were sad, or unhappy or upset. This was when I could say I was “empathic” with people, as I could now picture their situation, and realise why they were sad, or happy or upset. Compassion would then drive me to help….but first I have to understand why they are going through what they are going through.
A clear case of empathy that most of us have gone through……when somebody tells you, “this stupid computer is NOT WORKING!”….and you smile and you say, been there, done that, the thing almost went out the window. (to a 3 year old, this means nothing….but to you who have struggled with Windows 10….oh boy, yes, you understand and can be empathic.)