What Does The Empathy Symbol Stand For?

The Empathy Symbol stands for 2 “sides” reaching out to each other, and opening up to try to truly understand the other’s experiences and feelings. It could be 2 groups of people: men and women, blacks and whites, Jews and Muslims, fundamentalist Christians and atheists, Israelis and Palestinians, gays and straights, old and young, able-bodied and disabled, immigrants and native-born, and so on; or it could be 2 individuals: spouses, neighbors, co-workers, etc.

The Original Empathy Symbol, created in 1973

People have asked about the origins of the empathy symbol. I was a college student, active in the anti-Vietnam war movement. EmpathyMedallion150wI was contemplating the peace symbol I was wearing, when suddenly the idea for the empathy symbol popped into my head, full-blown. It felt as though it had been given to me, and I have felt spiritually charged to bring it to the world ever since. Deb Ellsworth

Empathy News

Featured Empathy Promoter

Black People


The New York Times has begun a new project, which it asks people to contribute to, edited by BAYETÉ ROSS SMITH, pictured above. In response to politicians who lump groups of people–blacks, Hispanics, women, gays and so on–into a single box, they are asking people to send in their own pictures and stories to say, for example, “This is who a black woman is, this is my experience, this is me.” This series will tell both sides of the empathy coin: We are all different, and we are all the same. That is to say, every individual is unique and should not be stereotyped, and most people have similar feelings and desires.

As Mr. Smith says, “In media, in marketing and in life, it’s all too common to see large, multifaceted groups of people defined by a single narrative. #HereIsMyAmerica — a project we’re launching here and on Instagram — is an attempt to counter that simplistic approach. We’re inviting you to help build a more nuanced national portrait.”

Listen to some of the the first participants. From Teri Johnson, a black woman: “I’m the fifth generation in my family to graduate from college. And out of everyone that I know, I don’t think I’ve met a person — African-American or Caucasian — who can say that. I come from a family that believes a lot in education and believes a lot in helping civil rights. … Not just as African-Americans, but as humans we all want the same things. We want love, we want happiness, we want financial stability, we want to be able to have great experiences, from travel to education to going to great restaurants and seeing great shows.” And from Jessica O. Matthews, also a black woman: “I run a hardware tech company that makes energy-generating products. I am a black woman, and our company is based in Harlem. We have Fortune 100 clients, we do business globally. We have 15 patents and patents pending covering really exciting iterations of our technology. … My parents are immigrants from Nigeria. They both grew up in the same tribe in the same state in Nigeria, but they met in Brooklyn. That’s what makes New York amazing.My mom watched Oprah constantly and decided that we could be anything. I went to an Ivy League school.”

Bookmark the site, and check it out frequently, as hundreds of pictures and descriptions of beautiful Americans are added.


See our previously featured Empathy Promoters.

Using the Empathy Symbol

Empathy Tattoos

  • Jonathan says: It really means a lot to me and speaks for my morals and outlook on life.
  • David G. proudly shows his commitment to empathy.
  • Amanda says, “I love this movement. I am an introverted person by nature and though I consider myself considerate, empathy isn’t second nature for me. That is why I chose to have a permanent reminder that I need to try to see the world through others’ eyes. It’s my feather 🙂 ”
  • Nils says, “I got my empathy symbol tattoo almost two years ago. the symbol is part of a bigger tattoo …. I also got the symbol on my bicycle . 😉 Greetings from Germany.
  • Kristeena says: I am from San Antonio and got this while visiting Los Angeles. I’m a counselor who works with at risk youth and Empathy is my life.
  • Katie says ” I got this done in August because I wanted to remind myself to be more empathetic and also because I wanted to educate people about empathy and what it’s all about. The empathy symbol is on my pinky. ”
  • Tyler says ” This tattoo reminds me everyday to be more understanding of others and hopefully live in a world where everyone can empathise with each other.”
  • James is proudly displaying his new tattoo that says, “Humility, Empathy, Respect”
  • My name is Fernando and I’m a psychiatrist here in Brazil. I always loved the definition and the discussion about empathy. I also think the whole world would be better if everyone simply started exercising empathy everyday.
  • Ronda says, “Thank you for doing what you do. I talk about this all the time and couldn’t wait to get my tattoo to be able to spread the love. “
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    Nathan says “Thanks for the inspiration”