It is said that it is empathy through which we manifest our humanity. It is what makes us different from the other animals.
1. the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.
It’s the part of us that comes out when we say, “I know how you must feel.” or “I hear ya.” or “I can relate to that.”
It’s also the part of us that we sometimes ignore.
Who Has The Corner On Empathy?
You come home. It’s been a rough day. You need to vent. The closest person to vent to is your spouse/partner. So you let loose.
Sometimes, your spouse/partner will sit patiently and listen. Some people think this is the woman’s role. They’ll cry with you. They’ll hug you.
Men, on the other hand, want to solve the problem. They offer advice or suggestions about how they would have tackled the situation.
Of course, anyone who’s venting doesn’t want to hear it. They just want to be listened to. They want someone to say, “I know how you feel and you’re right!”
When Empathy Leaves The Room
It’s when empathy starts to disappear that relationships start to crumble.
It’s starts with the little things, really. Instead of extending a kind word or signal that you understand, you contradict and offer the other point of view. You think you’re providing balance. Instead, you’re putting yourself squarely in the other camp.
As much as we would love to think we are all brothers and sisters working hand-in-hand to create world peace, the fact is that the world is sometimes us and them. Even if the “them” are people at work, clients, people at the store, crazy drivers or whoever.
Sure. There is always the other point of view. After all, we should all aspire to the lofty goals of St. Francis of Assisi’s prayer:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Sometimes, though, it just isn’t meant to be. No, sometimes we want to vent, we want to be right and we want someone on our side to tell us they understand.
We want empathy.