Unlike most other professions funeral practitioners must operate within an often sensitive emotional environment. Let’s call it emotionally charged. We know too well that sympathy can often backfire but empathy is never lost. Sympathy can often take someone lower but empathy often lifts up. God was angry with Job’s friends but I have always been impressed that they came and they sat with him for a week before the temptation to sympathize overcame their empathy.
This brief video from RSA animation gives us clarity about the difference. Play it for your staff, play it at group gatherings. As our profession struggles with finding a new and relevant identity in a rapidly changing world I wonder if empathy isn’t one of the gifts that sets us apart.