Empathy-Sympathy-Compassion – UPSC Ethics

With suitable examples differentiate between empathy, sympathy and compassion. In your opinion, which of these three qualities is most essential for a public servant and why? Explain. (200 Words)

Sympathy refers to acknowledging another person’s emotional hardships and providing comfort and assurance.
Empathy refers to understanding what others are feeling. This may be because we ourselves have felt so or we can put ourselves in their shoes.
Compassion refers to a step further, where a person not only feels empathy but also a desire to help alleviate the suffering of the other person. Thus, the emphasis here is on action and wanting to help.
In, other word while Sympathy focuses on awareness, empathy focuses on experience and Compassion focuses on action.
For example, consider the issue of child labour. On seeing a child waiter in a restaurant if a person is just feeling sad, then he is sympathetic. But if he also connects himself or own children with that child or memorizes any of his life experience, then he is empathetic.
But when someone unleashes himself from simply being a spectator and make some arrangements according to his capacity for the good ( like informing NGOs, arranging education, counselling his parents etc.) , then he has compassion.
A public servant must possess all the three qualities depending on situation. Public servants are meant to serve and this requires developing a humanistic outlook and to go out-of-the way. These qualities [Sympathy, Empathy and Compassion] ensure that the public servants act sensitively and interpret the rules so as to advance public interest. This is all the more important in a country like India where most the citizens are not aware of their rights and obligations owing to their socio-economic conditions rather than out of ignorance. In their absence, the administration will become mechanistic, rigid and ineffective.


Why in your opinion, having tolerance and compassion towards the weaker sections is important for a civil servant? Illustrate with suitable examples. (150 Words)
Tolerance and compassion make a civil servant to lead with not only head but also heart. They are the fundamental components of character and positive relationship which will be helpful to deliver the services and requirements fulfilling the needs of weaker sections.
For example, a grievance redressal meeting was held exclusively for the differently abled in a Collectorate. Despite being held only for the differently abled, the meeting was convened at the first floor of the Collectorate which had no ramp and was not  disabled friendly in any manner. It led to agitation of the petitioners who started  protesting immediately at the venue.
It is clear from the above example that empathy and in-depth understanding for the weaker sections be it differently abled or any senior citizen is mandatory for a civil servant at every stage. Deprivation of that essential quality leads to collapse in public administration and efficient service delivery.



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