It was probably inevitable that I’d choose to write about empathy today. It’s been one of the main focuses of my thought and of my work both professionally and academically for many years now. And I believe that empathy is the key to a more peaceful world.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share another’s feelings, to see the world from someone else’s point of view. And being empathetic can be hard. We see the world through our own particular set of filters, influenced by our upbringing, our beliefs, our educational and economic background and about a zillion other things. If you’ve ever wondered why it’s so hard to find common ground…well, there it is. Humans are complicated. Sometimes it’s hard to understand the world from our own point of view, much less try to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes.
So why is empathy important to me? Well, first and foremost, my personal experiences and observation of the world tell me that we (the big WE) spend a lot of time feeling isolated in our emotions and circumstances. It’s easy to think we’re the only ones who feel a certain way, and I suppose from a certain point of view, that’s true. We’re all unique individuals so we experience the world in our own unique way. BUT, that doesn’t mean we can’t relate to one another. Support groups offer an excellent view of what this looks like. In a support group, we are drawn together by a common issue, but we experience the issue in our own unique way. Sharing those similarities and differences are what help us cope with our feelings and recover. It helps us gain perspective.
But ultimately, I think empathy is of infinite importance because it combats indifference (which is sort of the opposite of empathy). When we are able to put ourselves in one another’s shoes, we see each other as fellow human beings instead of reducing one another to skin color, age, sexual orientation or any of a number of categories that seek to separate us into neat little piles. And understanding our fellow human beings helps us better understand ourselves (I know, deep, right?). It gives us context. And it reminds us that we are part of a larger world, one that we should care about and take care of.
What would a world with more empathy look like?
I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.
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