"What a pity that he was taking a leak when they were distributing brains", said a friend of me in the sort of sotto voce comment that is meant to be audible to the person being discussed.
Pity! Now, someone said that pity is merely sympathy clothed in bad manners. It was no use consoling myself that I ought to pity the speaker for his bad manners since it did not seem like there was any sympathy involved in the equation at all. It was more of a 'Thank God I am not he' sort of tone than anything that felt in the least bit sad about the fact that I was shy a few grey cells.
I do not know whether it is exclusively my experience or whether it is generic. This word pity is probably the one word that is used in conversations most pitilessly. Whenever someone says,"What a pity ....." about something related to me, it has invariably meant that that person was feeling superior about having something that I lacked (Or lacking something that I have - like verbal diarrhea). Sympathy is probably the 'There, but for the grace of God, go I' feeling where the speaker understands that he could have been in my shoes but for the grace of God (I know! I know! It is sort of difficult to imagine yourself, under even the most calamitous of circumstances, in my shoes but still...). Pity is invariably the 'No matter how bad I am, happily I am still not Suresh' sort of feeling.
So, it is not merely bad manners but something that arises from the mind. Feeling kinship with me (yes, it is difficult but life is not supposed to be a bed of roses) leads to sympathy; feeling contempt (It is oh so easy but, then, you need to steel yourself and take the difficult path like a human) leads to pity - or, more to the point, to "What a pity....."
I am sure you have understood why pity is, normally, abhorrent. You have not? What a pity.