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  • He was too reticent himself to have any stomach for the emotional prying which gives to many people the comforting illusion that they care.

  • We want people to feel with us more than to act for us.

    • George Eliot,
    • letter (1856), in J.W. Cross, ed., George Eliot's Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals ()
  • ... in certain crises direct expression of sympathy is the least possible to those who most feel sympathy.

    • George Eliot,
    • letter (1865), in J.W. Cross, ed., George Eliot's Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals ()
  • ... even those who call themselves 'intimate' know very little about each other — hardly ever know just how a sorrow is felt, and hurt each other by their very attempts at sympathy or consolation. We can bear no hand on our bruises.

    • George Eliot,
    • 1858, in Gordon S. Haight, ed., The George Eliot Letters, vol. 2 ()
  • ... sympathy is more effectually administered by indirect means than by the crowbars of consolation by which our friends, even the kindest, are apt to belabor our grief.

  • ... there is nothing so infuriating, when you are bearing all you can, as shallow, unrealistic optimism from someone who has not experienced the same disaster.

  • To those who fall and hurt themselves one runs with comfort; by those who lie dangerously stricken by a disease one sits and waits.

  • Those who are happy and successful themselves are too apt to make light of the misfortunes of others.

  • In all disappointments sympathy is a great balm.

  • [On the loss of Mary's third child:] Don't cry, dear Mary. Let us do that for you, because you are too tired now. We don't know how dark it is, but if you are at sea, perhaps when we say that we are there, you won't be as afraid. The waves are very big, but every one that covers you, covers us, too. Dear Mary, you can't see us, but we are close at your side.

    • Emily Dickinson,
    • c. 1860, in Thomas H. Johnson, ed., The Letters of Emily Dickinson, vol. 1 ()
  • The power to console is not within corporeal reach — though its attempt is precious.

    • Emily Dickinson,
    • 1879, in Martha Dickinson Bianchi, ed., The Life and Letters of Emily Dickinson ()
  • Sympathy is the charm of human life ...

  • Sympathy is a sweet thing.

  • Oh, my dear! never does one feel oneself so utterly helpless as in trying to speak comfort for great bereavement. I will not try it. Time is the only comforter for the loss of a mother.

    • Jane Welsh Carlyle,
    • letter to Thomas Carlyle on the death of his mother (1853), in James Anthony Froude, ed., Letters and Memorials of Jane Welsh Carlyle, vol. 2 ()
  • Condolence is the art of giving courage.

    • Monica Lehner-Kahn,
    • in Leonard M. Zunin and Hilary Stanton Zunin, The Art of Condolence ()
  • ... the reminder that there are people who have worse troubles than you is not an effective pain-killer ...

  • ... there are times when sympathy is as necessary as the air we breathe.

    • Rose Pastor Stokes,
    • 1901, in Herbert Stokes and David L. Sterling, eds., "I Belong to the Working Class": The Unfinished Autobiography of Rose Pastor Stokes ()
  • Since I heard that the mists of autumn had vanished and left desolate winter in your house, I have thought often of you as I watched the streaming sky.

  • ... it's something everybody wants — for someone to see the hurt done to them and set it down like it matters.