It is possible to feel for others even if you haven’t been through what they’re going through. Of course having been through the similar crises helps you understand it more and sometimes puts you in a better position to give advice or help that person get through it.
Ideally, one should feel for whoever’s going through a tough time. Regardless of the amount of info you have about them or about the situation and even if you know nothing (Jon Snow?), again, ideally. I won’t go far as to say that nobody ever reacts with the same level of empathy every time, some people genuinely care for the good of everyone though. But do we react to all stories with that same ideal? I believe not. We tend to add our own touch to how we might relate to this or that, we create some sort of connection subconsciously that justifies and fuels our empathy.
We are very selective about these connections we create and the subject person is a big factor in that. We are moved by stories of those we care about. We feel for our family or friends undergoing painful situations. We relate to strangers who summoned the courage to tell the story of how the world put them down on their knees after they how it happened. Bottom line, we easily empathize with those whom we have positive or neutral feelings about. Taking action or showing support is another thing, it requires a high level of relevance to the case presenting itself for a person to feel that responsibility and urge to take a corrective action.
It becomes harder when it’s negative. If there’s something about that person or group of people we aren’t okay with, we focus on these to clear our conscious fueled duty to support or empathize with them.
I find myself sometimes unable to empathize for the same reason. I’m aware of your struggle, I just genuinely don’t care how it turns out for you. I wish it ends well, for me. I mean, I wish it ends well for you so it doesn’t affect me in any way. What matters is that I don’t get involved because I don’t want to get involved. After all, empathy is a limited resource and we tend to spend our limited resources on things which give us some sort of reward, whatever that reward might be.
“Everyone’s fighting a battle you know nothing about.”
Well, yeah. I’m aware of that. And it is, in fact, true. But nothing about those facts force me to fight everyone’s battles with them, just because the battlefield’s within the vicinity.