A friend criticized me for being unsympathetic regarding a concern of hers that I thought was irrational. She believed that a friend ought to care simply because another human being is apprehensive, even if that apprehension is not justified. During this exchange it occurred to me that there is actually no reason for the layperson to be sympathetic or empathetic in any modern situation.
Three hundred years ago everyone had to know how to make soap. Today we can run down to the store and buy Ivory or Palmolive.
Three hundred years ago friends needed to empathize with one another. Today anyone who wishes to get sympathy for his or her troubles can simply buy it from one of the hundreds of thousands of trained professionals in the therapy industry.
Friendship isn’t obsolete of course. Psychotherapists aren’t very entertaining so we might still rely on friends for amusement. But why bother pretending to care about another person’s troubles when there are so many psychotherapists out there who actually do care, truly, deeply, professionally?