Empathy is not the same as sympathy. Don't confuse the two, though dictionary definitions are similar. The New Merriam Webster Dictionary (1989) defines sympathy as "the capacity for entering into and sharing the feelings or interests of another;" and empathy as "the capacity for experiencing as one's own the feelings of another."

My American Heritage Dictionary (1991) defines empathy as "identification with and understanding of another's situation, feeling, and motives" - in contrast to sympathy as "a feeling or expression of pity or sorrow for the distress of another person."

We sympathize when we express concern or understanding for another individual's situation, but we empathize when we identify with another person's situation and realize what it's like to be in the other person's shoes.