You’re conflating empathy with pity. Pity is self-lionizing because there is no true emotional involvement needed. Empathy is very messy work, which is why so few people actually engage with it and prefer to engage with others via pity. With true empathy, we see people on an eye-to-eye level as equals worthy of dignity and respect. Pity, on the other hand, lacks this sense of equality and permits the giver to feel better than the receiver “should” feel in the perceptions of the giver.