Empathy of the lack of it



” You know, there’s a lot of talk in this country about the federal deficit. But I think we should talk more about our empathy deficit — the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes; to see the world through the eyes of those who are different from us — the child who’s hungry, the steelworker who’s been laid-off, the family who lost the entire life they built together when the storm came to town. When you think like this — when you choose to broaden your ambit of concern and empathize with the plight of others, whether they are close friends or distant strangers — it becomes harder not to act; harder not to help.” – Barack Obama

We are well into the 21st century; progressively we can say that we are a world hurtling fast into a new-age of technology, explorations and the miracles of science. Less can we say about the development of human nature. Are we to say that the price of development is costing us a heavy price in human empathy?

The word “Empathy” – em•pa•thy “the projection of one’s own personality into the personality of another in order to understand the person better; ability to share in another’s emotions, thoughts, or feelings” as defined by Webster’s Dictionary.

We are only motivated to act on our empathy towards others when it is a world crises or major event extensively highlighted by the media or called upon by our leaders. Do we have the same response when we are confronted by a lesser plight in our neighborhood, among our common friends or even within our family circles? Most will confuse the word “empathy” with “sympathy”. The actions they take would be of a sympathetic nature – to help when the situation arises and hope that would solve the problem. There is a fine line between the two actions.

It is noted that when we act out of sympathy it is on a short term basis, with the intentions to relief the situation for the people concerned. If we acted out of empathy, it would have been on a consistently long term basis to within our capabilities. The actions of empathy are more prominent when we deal with everyday issues of poverty, addictions, petty crimes, self-destructive habits etc. These are issues that eat at the heart of a nation and family. Governments and great nation leaders are unable to eradicate these problems which are a bane to their leadership and are a meddlesome and sensitive issue.

We tend to overlook the tree for the forest, so to speak. Thus before we look beyond our own front yard to start empathizing, let us look at who we can really empathize with in our own small circle of family or friends. A great part of having empathy is to “wear” the other person’s shoe and to understand. Only when we understand, can we truly understand the plight and needs of the other person. And it is only with empathy can we strengthen the bond between family, friends and our fellow human beings.


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