Pity is feeling bad for someone else, because they are in an unfortunate situation, or at least, in a situation that is worse than your own1. The other person’s misfortune can be physical (e.g., a puppy with a leg injury), financial (e.g., a colleague who just lost his job), or success-related (e.g., an athlete who just lost the most important match of her life). A requirement for pity is that the person empathizes to some extent with the unfortunate person, and feels that this person did not deserve the misfortune. This makes pity an important force in altruistic behavior, such as charity donations and volunteering. However, feelings of pity can also lead to the thought that there is too much suffering in the world for one person to change, and consequently, inaction. Secondly, pity can carry a negative undertone because it involves implicit feelings of superiority: if I pity you, it means that I think you are worse off than me, and thus, I am doing better than you2. This air of superiority is a reason why some people would never want to be the object of pity.
An important factor in pity is the amount of misfortune that the person feeling pity sees in the affected person. This misfortune is not absolute, but relative to the person: for an average person, breaking one of their hands is not a disaster, but it might be for a professional piano player3. A second factor is the ‘psychological closeness’ between the pitied and the pitier. Psychological closeness depends on the relationship you have with a person (you typically feel closer to your mother than to your neighbor), proximity (you feel closer to your neighbor than to a random person in another country), and similarity in background (you generally feel closer to someone with the same level of income or professional background as you have). Thirdly, you tend to feel more pity for someone if you think their misfortune is undeserved4. This depends on how much you like a person (it is easier to pity an unfortunate saint than an unfortunate jerk), and to what extent you feel they are responsible for their own situation (you feel more pity for someone who lost his house to a hurricane than for someone who lost his house through gambling debts). Lastly, whether or not you feel pity may depend on your worldview. Some people hold that luck is blind and random, and thus feel more pity than people who hold that everyone is responsible for their own fortune.
In the comic, Murphy is at first relieved that he is not included in the round of layoffs, but then realizes that his close colleague Sarah was affected. To make matters worse, she tells him that she had just bought a house.