Empathy is an undervalued skill since in a world of victimhood, we focus all too much on sympathy. No one seems to want others to understand their trials and tribulations because then solutions could be evaluated, thus removing the reason for sympathy. Sympathy is a currency to be traded, instead of a social situation to be avoided. I think this is due to a distance we’ve created between individuals.
“… you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”
Spirituality: Empathy is good for the soul. It is an understanding of and connecting to other people in a genuine way. Both Hinduism and Christianity teach something close to “in God all is one.” It takes different forms in both, but the idea that through God there will be no Gentile or Jew, woman or man, only one body of Christ. Empathy is the first step.
Religion: Through religion, empathy forms a community. Parishes, synagogues, and temples create faith communities that, so long as they aren’t hostile to other faiths, create a sense of understanding for one another. If done properly, the religion extends this community to reach out to those outside of it as if they were a part of the community.
Economics: We see the power of empathy in the generosity of those free to give their money to create a better life for others. We also see it in new ways with technology allowing for crowdfunding to start businesses. When a society comes together and has empathy for “the other,” it becomes far easier for economic systems to be put in place that play to the greater sense in empathy of the whole group because there is a critical mass of individuals looking for these market solutions.
Politics: Empathy allows us to stop treating people as “the other.” Instead of falling into political tribes, we can respectfully disagree, live and let live, and know that other people aren’t evil due to their point of view. When I see people telling Gerard Butler that they’re happy his house burnt down due to his position on Israel.
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