I've always been confused by the concepts of sympathy and empathy. It seems like society highly praises empathy but doesn't care much for sympathy, which I think is opposite of what it should be. I see the word empathy being used everywhere and how it's so important for people to be empathetic (for instance, health care professionals). If you're not perceived as empathetic, you're shunned off as being "cold". But what about sympathy? I have a strong Fi and am very capable of feeling sympathy for others. I enjoy helping them out, even if I don't understand exactly why they are feeling vulnerable, sad, angry, etc. in a given situation. Of course sometimes I can't think of a way to help even if I want to, so I guess that comes off as cold? Then an empathetic person steps into the spotlight and can make the person feel better without even offering any help (other than understanding). For example, empathy seems to be a highly valued trait in physicians. I mean, sure, it would be nice for the doctor to be able to step in your shoes. But if it's empathy that everyone is after, the doctor doesn't necessarily have to feel an obligation to help you. They could take a "sucks for them" sort of attitude. Wouldn't sympathy be a better trait? Who cares if a doctor can RELATE to how you feel, as long as they feel sad for you and have an urge to help you even though they don't necessarily understand your situation.
So I think sympathy should be more highly regarded since empathy doesn't even entail helping others but rather simply understanding where they are coming from. But I never hear people being praised for being sympathetic, or being told they should strive to become more sympathetic.
I guess what I'm wondering is why it seems that society values empathy so much and sympathy just doesn't matter as much. Empathetic people are more likely to be very selfish, but sympathetic people are more inclined to being selfless, no?