Take 3, What The Hell Is Pity

yincira:

lilietsblog:

yincira:

magicofthepiper:

yincira:

Culture specific mental states and feelings are a thing. I’m asking this as someone whose native languages do not have a word for pity.

Compassion

  • Emotion in response to situation : sorrow
  • Thoughts prompted by emotion : how can I help
  • Actions prompted by thoughts : helpful as well as can be
  • Response : person feels loved

Pity

  • Emotion in response to situation : sorrow
  • ????????????
  • ????????????
  • Response : person feels condescended

I don’t want to accidentally write something that people from another culture will interpret as a thing it’s not meant to be, so could someone please explain this difference?

Sorry, I’m not trained in forming linguistic arguments but I’ll try to explain how I perceive the term.

The emotional response to a situation which is to pity is both sorrow and judgment. Pitiers tend to portrayed as having higher status than the pitiful and distances themselves from the one they are pitying with the disbelief that they themselves could ever be in that situation.

Thoughts prompted by pity can be “how can I help” but it’s coupled but taking into consideration time and effort so it tends to lean towards “can I help” or “should I help”.

Actions prompted by pity tend to be short term actions like a small handout of what is on their being before the pitier moves on but often it’s just the act of judging and moving on. Acts of pity tend to barely helpful and do not help the pitiful deal with the circumstances of their situation. Like the phrase “You give a poor man a fish and you feed him for a day. You teach him to fish and you give him an occupation that will feed him for a lifetime.” So, to give a man a fish can be an act of pity, to teach a man to fish is an act of compassion as it takes more time and effort, but also has a lasting effect.

Still, there is a lot of overlap of the two terms and they can be interchangeable. So the parable of “The Good Samaritan” is about a man who takes action to help a man who is in a pitiful state. To me, this is the tale from which I formed a differentiation between pity and compassion. I was taught that the religious men did stop, but only to say a prayer for the man before moving on, while the Samaritan was the only one compassionate enough to actually help in a meaningful way. When I looked up the tale for reference, I was personally surprised that the first translation I found used “pity” to describe the emotion that the Samaritan felt towards the mugged traveler. So I look through all the translations from the following site.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+10%3A25-37&version=KJ21

And it looks like more English translations favor compasion rather then pity. Like “when he saw him he had compassion on him” (KJ21)  or  “ when he saw him, he was moved with compassion” (ASV) 

Aside from those we have “ he felt sorry for him” (CEV); “ he took pity on him” (NIV); “ he was touched with pity” (PHILLIPS);  ” his heart was filled with pity” (GNT); “ he was moved with pity” (NRSV); “ his heart went out to him” (MSG); “ he had loving-pity on him” (NLV); “ with pity and sympathy [for him],” (AMPC);  “ He saw the man and wanted to share in his troubles” (WE);

So I think, a few of the translations bridge the two terms by emphasizing what kind of pity was felt, such as “loving-pity”, which might be the easiest way the describe compassion.

((And I want to highlight the Wycliffe Bible translation, that reminded me a little of MCK, which phrased it as “and had ruth on him” (WYC);))

I was relieved to find the Mounce Reverse-Interlinear New Testament version because I believe that has the original greek with translation:

  • 33 But <de> a <tis> Samaritan <Samaritēs> who was traveling <hodeuō> came <erchomai > to <kata> [where] he <autos> [was], and <kai> [when he saw him], was moved with compassion <splanchnizomai> [for him.] (MOUNCE) 

And looking up the word “splanchnizomai” , I came across this article: http://www.thecurrentmag.com/?p=385

It states, “ In verse 33, the greek word σπλαγχνιζομαι is used in describing the emotion that accompanied the Samaritan’s actions as he looked on the man who had been left for dead.  Our English version simply says that the Samaritan had “pity” on the man.  The actual word used for “pity” is unbelievably descriptive and the English language, while trying to capture the meaning, does not fully expose the depths of what Jesus was conveying to his audience. … σπλαγχνιζομαι is defined in a Greek lexicon as “to be moved as to one’s bowels”.  Splagchnizomai is a quaking of the very intestines and bowels.  It is a deep-hearted moving of compassion that literally began to rattle the very foundations of the person experiencing the emotion. ”

And if I’m understanding the article correctly, in that version the author is referring to, it’s only in “The Good Samaritan” that σπλαγχνιζομαι is translated as pity, as in other cases since it’s used to describe God’s feelings towards mankind. A God who feels pity towards humans is less favorable than a loving or compassionate God. Pity seems to be used in

“The Good Samaritan”  because it’s felt between two mortals.

So I can see why pity can be a translation, but I think compassion better captures the context in which it’s used in “The Good Samaritan” parable.

That’s all I’ve got to say. Though, I’m not sure if this at all helpful.

The emotional response to a situation which is to pity is both sorrow and judgment. Pitiers tend to portrayed as having higher status than the pitiful and distances themselves from the one they are pitying with the disbelief that they themselves could ever be in that situation.

That’s what we’d call just shallow compassion and arrogance that happen to coexist right then. I don’t understand how judgment is an emotion either. Like, what kinda judgment.

Thoughts prompted by pity can be “how can I help” but it’s coupled but taking into consideration time and effort so it tends to lean towards “can I help” or “should I help”.

This also also confusing because how is taking into consideration time and effort not relevant to figuring out what your options are? Something about the degrees to which it’s done?

Actions prompted by pity tend to be short term actions like a small handout of what is on their being before the pitier moves on but often it’s just the act of judging and moving on. Acts of pity tend to barely helpful and do not help the pitiful deal with the circumstances of their situation. Like the phrase “You give a poor man a fish and you feed him for a day. You teach him to fish and you give him an occupation that will feed him for a lifetime.” So, to give a man a fish can be an act of pity, to teach a man to fish is an act of compassion as it takes more time and effort, but also has a lasting effect.

But not everyone who has fish is capable of fishing. Not everyone who would like to help has the money or time or skill or presence.

Still, there is a lot of overlap of the two terms and they can be interchangeable. So the parable of “The Good Samaritan” is about a man who takes action to help a man who is in a pitiful state. To me, this is the tale from which I formed a differentiation between pity and compassion. I was taught that the religious men did stop, but only to say a prayer for the man before moving on, while the Samaritan was the only one compassionate enough to actually help in a meaningful way.

Around here, the behavior of the first to men would more likely be called farizees or scheinheilig (deceptive appearance of holiness for the show of it) than anything related to compassion. Those men would not be considered to have felt concrete sorrow for the victim or to have acted compassionate or helpful, but to just put up a show. Yet, if pity and compassion can overlap somehow, that doesn’t appear to be quite the same.

The specific thing I struggle with is how characters who reject sympathetic gestures are interpreted by an audience. In some other languages, when someone says “I don’t need your medelijden/mitleid/同情” it’s seen as an indication someone is too prideful to accept help, or is at least experiencing a terrible sense of powerlessness that compassion highlights. Yet in English, I see “I don’t need your pity” being used to assert power against oppressive, condescending others. I mostly see this online so I can’t tell in response to what actions it is, let alone how the speaker is perceiving them.

Russian has a direct equivalent to this! So I think I can help too.

Look at the word ‘pitiful’. It doens’t mean ‘someone who deserves compassion’ it means… well, it’s directly derogative. “You pitiful fools” and so on.

‘Pity’ means that not only do you perceive that someone is suffering, but it lowers their status in your eyes. You can’t actually RELATE to their situation, and therefore you can’t really be bothered ot think of what you can do to make it easier. At best, you do some kind of action that you were taught you are ‘supposed’ to do when someone is in that state, but it doesn’t get charged with any actual desire to see their situation improved. You’re just being good ‘at’ them.

Pity is charged with superiority and complete refusal to actually empathize because like… that would be too much effort? That would hurt too much? It’s a superficial sentimental echo of compassion.

It might even lead to the same actions compassion would, if the ‘pity script’ is quality enough, but it comes from an entirely different place. A pitier, when helping, confirms to themselves their superior status, that they’re the helper here and the other person is pitiful.

It’s… yeah, it’s messed up. It’s an actual thing tho )=

#its just a coincidence#because a pitier didnt actually try and understand the situation#they just matched it up to a scenario in their head#where they are The Savior#and its a trope when people say ‘i dont need your pity’ in response to genuine compassion#because they misunderstand and mistrust the other person’s intent#and that can be a function of pride

So, basically, it’d go like this.

  • Emotion in response to situation : sorrow
  • Thoughts prompted by emotion : how can I look good in this scenario
  • Actions prompted by thoughts : basic template without consideration
  • Response : person feels condescended

What I’m getting from this addition too is again that it includes behavior that we over here would call schijnheilig, which begs the question why every dictionary connects pity to compassion and sympathy yet never to sanctimonious. Like, medelijden/mitleid/同情 are all composed of fragments that mean the feeling’s the same, which requires being able to relate, so they’re technically mutually exclusive with pity as a refusal to empathize.

Also, if pity then is about both an attitude and the way it leads towards behavior towards others, then how can self pity be a thing?

All in all, I’m starting to think it’s gonna be impossible to be unambiguous about writing certain things in an English way, which wouldn’t even be the first time that happened.

On a sidenote, why did someone reblog this from you and tag it with homestuck and romance? Do I even want to know?

re: why homestuck romance. andrew hussie trolled everyone by at some point having a character assert that romantic love in their culture was founded on pity which imho was just a product of said character being a confused 13 year old from a very toxic culture and doesn’t really make sense to take at face value just… disregard that

and now that i thought about it more, i’d say

emotions in response to situation: sorrow, superiority, condescension, despair, detachment, guilt, obligation
thoughts prompted by emotion: how can i get out of this situation
action prompted by thoughts: closest script for aforementioned
response: person feels condescended, offended, disregarded, depending on the actual actions in the script

pity is NON PRODUCTIVE. it does not prompt thoughts ‘how do i solve this’. it starts with the assumption that the situation is the fact and the best you can do is come out of it smelling like roses. if you pity a homeless kitten on the street it means you aren’t taking it home, like maybe you can’t or maybe it doesn’t even occur to you as a solution or maybe you think it’d be too much trouble

self-pity means you aren’t actually doing anything to solve your own problem, you’re just detaching yourself from it by telling yourself that it’s not your fault and you can’t do anything

and yeah i listed like seven emotions there because thats how fucking complicated it is. it falls anywhere on the spectrum from ‘i feel really horrible for your situation and wish i could help more but i cant and now i just feel guilty’ to ‘i feel like im vaguely obligated to do something in this situation and thats annoying. its your own fault anyway so there have a token of sympathy and get the fuck away from me’

the key is focusing on yourself and your own comfort and feelings over the situation that prompted the emotion

EDIT: okay, no, i got it wrong again, a little bit. Heres a revised chart:

emotion prompted by situation: sorrow, despair, guilt, obligation, annoyance
thoughts prompted by emotion: how do i make myself feel better
action prompted by thoughts: extricating yourself from the situation / script for ‘help’ that might or might not actually be helpful
response: depends entirely on action. condescended to, offended, disregarded, angry, upset, maybe even grateful if the help actually helped

key point: focus on self rather than situation

it’s like this:

its probably not very readable… its half past midnight. i tried. the words say ‘self’ ‘mental barrier’ ‘problem’

pity is kind of like self defense of the psyche. protection from something that would cost too much energy to fully actually take in. a way to notice the situation without actually engaging with it. “when compassion is too much trouble” or “when you can’t figure out how to compassion”. its a learned first reaction to MOST fucked up stuff we hear about. kind of care, just not too deeply

it’s complicated

keeping orginal tags bc they are what helped me think and formulate this

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