Fallacy of Nonjudgmental Empathy

Empathy has grown to such proportions
it is even used to define morality

What is empathy? In the pseudo-science of psychology the answer would be multi-faceted since empathy has grown into a tree with roots in nearly aspect of human behavior, including morality. These “professional” experts would deem any answer that we might hazard to be ridiculous and ourselves ignorant.

Such is the wall that empathy has built though it claims to “tear down walls of misunderstanding”. Following the laws of logic we must first identity or define empathy. Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other being’s frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another’s position.” Empathy has pushed aside the supposedly outmoded concept of sympathy: “Sympathy (from the Greek words syn “together” and pathos “feeling” which means “fellow-feeling”) is the perception, understanding, and reaction to the distress or need of another life form.”

Empathy has become so pervasive
People believe they feel as animals feel

What is the history of empathy? “The English word empathy is derived from the Ancient Greek word εμπάθεια (empatheia, meaning “physical affection or passion”). This, in turn, comes from εν (en, “in, at”) and πάθος (pathos, “passion” or “suffering”). The term was adapted by Hermann Lotze and Robert Vischer to create the German word Einfühlung (“feeling into”), which was translated by Edward B. Titchener into the English term empathy.” Let us clarify what occurred. The original word was co-opted by Lotze and Vischer and redefined according to their own philosophy. Later, Titchener brought the word into English in its present form. This postmodern approach to definitions is classic. Definitions are assigned according to current needs giving legitimacy to concepts that otherwise would not be taken seriously. But, let us look at the basic premise of empathy as used today.

Primarily empathy “…is the ability to feel and share another person’s emotions”. Since nearly everyone reading this has been trained in public education to be empathetic, the logical fallacy of this simple definition probably eludes people. It is impossible for anyone to know how someone else feels. This requires “actually being the other person”. It means you have the same emotional perspective, memories, experiences and so on; in other words, you have exactly the same worldview as the other person. This is impossible because you would have to be the other person and not yourself. You would have to change to be every single person you met in order to understand what they are saying as they actually knowing (i.e., feeling) what they are saying! To be blunt, you would have to be god because this is only a perspective that God has. Not even Satan can meet these criteria, nor do I believe he tries. He can only be himself. You can only be yourself. What did empathy replace?

At some point in the 20th century:
Sympathy was “bad”, empathy “good”

I was trained and have worked for over 30 years in nursing which reeks of “empathy”. But, why was sympathy “bad”? The above graphic is indicative of the logical fallacies used to discourage sympathy and encourage empathy. Empathy claims to understanding someone’s feelings whereas sympathy truthfully acknowledges that someone has certain feelings. Empathy claims to be able to “walk in another’s shoes” due to similar experiences while sympathy is limited only to acknowledging another’s feelings and providing assurance. Hmm, I guess I need to be in an auto accident to know “how it feels” in order to “know” the feelings of my patient receiving from an auto accident. This means that if one has not had similar experiences you cannot be empathetic, you cannot know their true emotional state. This view has been so ingrained through the popular media that you are thinking, “Yes, that is true!” Then, you cannot help that person. You would need to find someone who has similar experiences. In a professional setting such as nursing in a hospital, I would be severely limited in which patients I could provide care to since I am expected to be empathetic. Why did this fallacy come about and gain such traction in our culture?

The dirty little secret is that sympathy does not excuse behavior. It acknowledges that each person is responsible and accountable for their thoughts, words and deeds. I can acknowledge that you have congestive heart failure (CHF) and assist you via various treatments in overcoming this issue without excusing the fact that your non-compliance with your medical regime was responsible for your current predicament. Sympathy does not blame (which only seeks to excuse the one doing the blaming) but it does acknowledge personal responsibility. Empathy gained traction under the false flag of being nonjudgmental! Sympathy seeks to help you not make the same mistakes while empathy excuses you, setting you up for repeating the same mistakes which will have the same outcomes until you succumb to the outcomes.

This is why television, movies, books, music, psychology, education, nursing, government, nearly every aspect of modern society preaches, but does not practice, nonjudgmentalism. Nonjudgmentalism means that you can never determine if any thought, word, or deed is moral or immoral. It seeks to remove personal responsibility and accountability and ignore the consequences of one’s actions. It has led to the development of, “It’s not my fault,” mentality. Your CHF is not longer, “your fault,” even though you ignored your reasonable treatment plan. It is the reason that diabetics are frequently “non-compliant” because it is not “fair” they have adult-onset diabetes due to earlier lifestyle choices. Rather than rejoice that they have an effective means to control this disease process, since the early 20th century, they rebel against the “unfairness” of the disease and healthcare professionals are supposed to support them in their distress. When insulin was introduced it was hailed as a “godsend” but, empathy has changed insulin from a blessing into a curse.

This one example shows how empathy has changed people from wanting to overcome issues to being prisoners of issues. Nonjudgmentalism seeks to removes responsibility and thus inhibit changes to prevent further issues. It has turned people from adults, seeking to overcome issues and taking responsibility for decisions, to petulant children who “throw tantrums” who want to be excused from the consequences of their decisions. The entire spectrum of pseudo-science “professionals” have guided the culture into becoming a society of patients in need of their invaluable assistance via drugs and supposedly amoral behavioral modifications. The outcome has been disastrous and they refuse to take responsibility for these outcomes. Children who would have been held accountable for misbehaving and disciplined are now treated with medications and not disciplined. They have not been taught how to channel their thoughts, words and deeds into constructive outcomes. This has resulted in a more violent society erupting more frequently into mass shootings and serial killings. An evolutionary foundation coupled with increased self-esteem (no one more important than me) and iced with empathetic forgiveness means that no one is responsible for the consequences of their decisions (or sin-a horrible word in the worlds of: psychology, sociology, education and nursing {quadrate of empathy}.

This falls on deaf ears amid the charges of, “judgmentalism!” “How dare you judge another?” Well, while we are to judge ourselves first, the Bible also tells us that we are to discern the behavior of others: avoiding immoral behaviors (Ep 5:1-16; 2Ti 2:24-26). How can I help my patients if I do not clearly understand the issues? This does not mean Christians do not help others. Remember: healthcare was started by Christians to help those in trouble. All other religions and philosophies just left you to fend for yourself; karma. The Bible also tells us that people do not want to take responsibility for their sin and will gather to themselves those who teach what they want to hear (pseudo-science professionals) (2Ti 2:22-23; 4:3-4)!

I cannot be empathetic; I cannot be you nor do you ever want to be me. I can be sympathetic; I can come alongside and support you in your distress even giving you the tools to help overcoming your difficulties. This is the definitions of Comforter (παράκλητος; paraklētos) {in relation to the Holy Spirit} (Jo 14:26). It is the Holy Spirit who judges everyone of sin, righteousness and judgment, not myself {guilt is the gift of God warning you of your sin, its consequences and directing you toward His word for salvation} (Jo 16:7-11). Empathy seeks to remove guilt, dissuade you of the coming judgment and hold you captive in your sin until death! Empathy robs you of salvation, the gift of eternal life with Christ while sympathy supports you and guides you toward that which offers life eternal in Christ (Ro 3:23-24). The sad news is that churches have embraced the pseudo-science of psychology and ALL the error that it preaches to include empathy. Instead of being bastions against the foolishness of the world, they have embraced it becoming as the world excusing sin rather than offering the solution for sin – salvation in Christ alone, by His grace alone, based on His word alone. Empathy is literally death by works which is condemned by the Bible and by the fruit it brings to every life that practices it (Ga 2:15-16; 3:11-14). Churches, and Christians, who practice and promulgate such heresy will be rewarded with the fruits of empathy and answerable to Christ for loving the world more than Him (Re 2:18-29).

Author: LeeS

Retired naval nurse, Dad, Husband, Christian who seeks to share the Bible with those who want more than the superficial milk given out in the majority of today's churches. God has taught me through hard experiences as well as through book learning (Master's of Ministry, Doctor of Ministry).