Sympathy, Empathy, Apathy and Outrage: How Do We Respond to Terrible Things?

21 December 2023

7.1 MINS


According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, it is ‘a feeling of sincere concern for someone who is experiencing something difficult or painful.’

When a friend or loved one dies, we send our sincere sympathy to the family, an expression that acknowledges our sadness for their loss and pain. We understand the humanity of brokenness and sadness that comes with loss; if we haven’t experienced this, believe me, you will. It comes to all.

The times in which we are living have really skewed our perspective on many issues; society is, I believe, less sympathetic today than when I was growing up. I often point to the COVID assault as a real tipping point: “If you don’t get the jab, you deserve all you get” attitude was endorsed by ‘the experts’, the media and the Governments of the Western world, particularly.

Even today, a beautiful young Australian girl lies languishing in a New South Wales hospital, denied a lifesaving heart transplant because she didn’t take an experimental product that she and her parents believed could damage her fragile body even more. Some people have sympathy for her; others believe this child deserves her fate. Many other patients have died due to governments’ sheer bloody-mindedness across the ‘civilised world’.

Now we see protests against Israel, days after the slaughter of innocent non-combatants, women, children, babies and frail elderly people, spewing hatred and vitriol against the victims! ‘Serve themselves right!’ ‘Put them in the trashcan of humanity!’ One of our own Senators posed with impressionable young people holding up signs supporting a terrorist organisation.

Do I grieve for the innocent lives on both sides of this conflict? I had better, or in the grand scheme of things, I’m no better than Mereen Faruqi, Australian Senator and Deputy Leader of the Greens.

How cruel our society has become.

Mind you, the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-27 gives us a glimpse into the love Jesus wants for us, compared to the wickedness and coldness found in the hearts of many.


This is ‘the ability to emotionally understand what other people feel, see things from their point of view, and imagine yourself in their place. Essentially, it is putting yourself in someone else’s position and feeling what they are feeling. Having empathy enables us to build those social connections.’

While researching this word, I came across an explanation that includes a lack of empathy. Reduced empathy, seen in psychopathy, increases the risk of goal-directed aggression. We are seeing a lot of that today.

It’s funny what you remember from childhood; if I saw another person fall over and hurt themselves, it often triggered a visceral gut reaction in my own body. It was like I could feel their hurt. Perhaps as we grow older, our ability to feel another’s pain becomes dulled by experience and a certain hard-heartedness.

Unfortunately, we are seeing a world with a lack of empathy on many fronts. For many people, understanding and feeling empathy for another will only occur when something tragic, trying, or heartbreaking occurs in their own lives. Then, indeed, as an old friend once said, ‘You have to walk a mile in somebody else’s moccasins to understand what they’ve gone through.’

If you have lost a family member through violence or experienced this yourself, you will empathise with them. My father was lost in a boating accident; his body never recovered. I can empathise with similar circumstances others are going through. Mum was ‘euthanised’, and it broke my heart for years. I can empathise with those in similar positions; you see pain, and experience gives us a deep insight into life.

So, what does the Bible have to say about Compassion? Compassion appears approximately 145 times in the Bible. It appears in both the Old and New Testaments. Some verses teach us that God Himself is full of compassion and mercy. Other verses remind us of our mandate to be compassionate to others. We also read verses where Jesus Himself was moved with compassion toward the people and their plight. If Jesus is compassionate, how can we not be?


According to Wikipedia, this is ‘a lack of feeling, emotion, interest, or concern about something. It is a state of indifference, or the suppression of emotions such as concern, excitement, motivation, or passion. An apathetic individual has an absence of interest in or concern about emotional, social, spiritual, philosophical, virtual, or physical life and the world. The apathetic may lack a sense of purpose, worth, or meaning in their life.

Many people display apathy, but often, it is really a symptom of not being able to deal with the world in which we live; the problems so evident around us make it easier for them to put their heads in the sand and try not to notice. It’s a form of self-protection, no doubt, and easily understood as that. Sometimes, it’s just all too painful to look around and see what’s happening.

Of great concern is the apathy displayed by the church in general over a variety of extremely urgent spiritual problems confronting every Christian, whether we like it or not. In many denominations, the actual tenets of Christianity are being assaulted by the woke culture that has insinuated itself into the highest places of Christendom. Franklin Graham calls out the Anglican Church in this article.

Brave people like Kirralie Smith from Binary have been persecuted and indeed prosecuted for their stance in protecting children from the rampant abuse of the alphabet lobby. We should thank God for her and continue to uphold her in our prayers.

“See to it that you don’t despise or think less of one of these little ones, for us I to you that the angels in heaven in the presence of and continually look upon the face of my father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 18:10, Amplified Bible)

When confronted by anti-Christian bigotry, anti-Semitism, and the infiltration of the left’s march through our institutions, including seminaries and churches worldwide, we are silent. Too many churches believe in replacement theology, giving little thought or care to the plight of Israel. Jack Hibbs’ podcast is well worth watching!

They have allowed the government to call the shots on many pivotal challenges confronting the Church of Jesus Christ. Toeing the party line, compromising and endorsing the ‘doctrines of demons’ that Paul talked about.

Keeping our heads down and our mouths shut didn’t help us concerning COVID-19, the LGBTQ agendas, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the freedom to peacefully assemble. Very few churches have the intestinal fortitude to stand up as pro-life advocates, and raising the word ‘Abortion’ would be unheard of.

But who knows, if we keep quiet this time and don’t make waves, perhaps, they will leave us alone; perhaps they won’t. I can understand people of the world, those who don’t know Jesus Christ keeping quiet. We, however, are without excuse. The prophets, apostles and disciples down through the ages have spoken out with bravery, and many have lost their lives in doing so.

What’s it coming to when a Christian woman stands and silently prays in her head near an abortion clinic, not speaking to anyone, accosting them, trying to sway them to change their mind, but merely praying silently is arrested by police for a ‘thought crime’?

Our days of apathy should be over! There are bigger fish to fry than keeping an oftentimes lukewarm church comfortable Sunday to Sunday.


The Britannica Dictionary explains it as ‘extreme anger; a strong feeling of unhappiness because of something bad, hurtful or morally wrong.’

We see extreme anger all around us today. It’s alive and well on the streets of Sydney, London, New York, Palestinian supporters in their thousands, chanting words that should make us recoil in shock. On Newcastle Harbour, not far from where we live, anger and contempt come from climate activists in their canoes made of fossil fuels, clothed in their neoprene wetsuits made with fossil fuels, who will get in their cars, upload videos to social media and not give a fig for the lives they are trying to disrupt; industries that support our entire population are demonised by them as they go home to take a long hot shower and sit in front of their 65-inch flatscreen TVs, oblivious and ignorant to the lies pedalled by globalists and billionaires. We hear it in the words of our young, brainwashed children on the hot topics of climate, transgenderism, abortion, and of course, Israel.

These rampant activists (usually from our corrupted universities and colleges) and social influencers lure our children from the classrooms to protest FOR their agendas, and we pay the ultimate price, seeing the mental health of our young people suffer and play out in the ultimate conclusion that life is not worth living. Too many adults decide that ending their lives is the only answer to their immense pain. This should fill us with righteous indignation.

Let’s always reaffirm our children and young people that there is hope and purpose in their lives, and point them toward the saving grace found in Jesus.

We Are in a Battle Against Wickedness, and It’s Accelerating

Paul clearly tells us that ‘we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers of wickedness in high places.’ (Eph 6:12) This is a spiritual war, a war that’s raging for the souls of humanity, and our children are a prime target of Satan.

Even non-Christians are appalled at the state of the deterioration of society. They are paying the price for speaking out! The Government of Ireland has set its sights on one of her favourite sons. I’m giving you a link to The Rubin Report. In this YouTube video, Dave Rubin gives a cross-section of opinions from people like Elon Musk and Connor Macgregor on topics like unfettered immigration to Europe, the election of populist leaders like Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, and Argentina’s Javier Milei. It’s an interesting hour.

We know the term ‘righteous anger’, and I’m sure we all feel it sometimes. (Ps 4:4, Eph 4:17-27, Ps 37.) Our stomach churns, and tears leak from our eyes. How do we reconcile all that we are seeing, knowing that even speaking out opens the door to ridicule, judgement and being tagged as some kind of religious zealot?

Thank God we have seen peaceful gatherings in support of Israel! Pro-life rallies continue to increase in numbers. Finally, our farmers are protesting the climate lunacy decimating prime agricultural lands.

I’m including this link to an article written by the amazing James Macpherson; frankly, I’m barely able to string a sentence together compared to James’ writing ability.

Like him, I ask the question: will we admit we are in trouble with a capital “T”?

Individually and corporately, what are we prepared to put up with, stay silent on, and acquiesce to?

What are we prepared to stand for, speak out against, pray against, and have some righteous indignation about?

The ultimate choice is ours.


Photo by Andrea Piacquadio.

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  1. Stephen Lewin 21 December 2023 at 12:11 pm - Reply

    Thanks for this article Leonie…we need to be challenged to have empathy , compassion etc and speak truth in love especially in such a time as this

    • Leonie Robson 21 December 2023 at 2:51 pm - Reply

      Thankyou Pastor Stephen.
      Always trying to get the balance right in the light of the Gospel.

  2. Stan Beattie 21 December 2023 at 1:27 pm - Reply

    I love your essay Leonie. And I think you are very articulate.

    • Leonie Robson 21 December 2023 at 2:52 pm - Reply

      Thankyou brother, you are very kind.
      God bless you and your beautiful wife.

  3. H Harrison. 23 December 2023 at 11:27 pm - Reply

    Love your article Leonie – covering many subjects that should grieve us all. Tough, gentle, honest and challenging.

    • Leonie Robson 29 December 2023 at 4:01 pm - Reply

      Thankyou for your encouragement HH.
      Truly appreciate it.
      Leonie ❤️

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