On The Lack Of Empathy
To be human is to be empathetic. It is as simple as that. Feelings are universal and experiences have threads of similarities. Yet, there is a subtle lack of empathy toward other humans for no particular reason. Truly, it is to stand out amidst the crowd.
There is a fiber that seems consistent across society that says we need to show we are different than others. It makes perfect sense to want to be unique. The problem is that when we believe our circumstances are unlike those of others and that keeps us void of empathy. In turn, we are void of community and the inherent need of connection.
Connection looks like seeing and hearing another person to show a true understanding of what they have gone or are going through. It looks like:
- I have been in a relationship that feels like if it were to end, that life would end, too.
- I have felt an immense amount of grief from the loss of a loved one to drugs.
- I have known the thrill of an adrenaline rush.
- I have experienced the moment where peace feels like snow falling all around me.
- I know the joy that comes from being in a loving relationship.
- I am familiar with the anger and resentment that boils my blood.
- I can identify many times where life felt like it was not worth living and where life felt like it was worth every up and down.
I could write plenty of pages just on this, but ultimately it comes down to the innate ability to empathize with you. You have gone through at least one of these situations or felt one of these emotions. Empathy is not more complicated than that.
So, how do we express empathy to increase our compassion for the human race? Empathy comes in the shape of kindness, relating and caring. It comes in the form of, “I know what that is like” and “me too”. Simple phrases like these go a long way. To be realistic, there is no doubt in my mind that one’s day could turn all the way around, just by hearing someone come from a place of understanding them.
You are probably well-acquainted with Brené Brown’s work on vulnerability. She is the mastermind behind it. She also has done work on empathy. Here’s a short clip that sums up the contrast of sympathy and empathy:
It’s easy to get sympathy and empathy mixed up, when sympathy has been the more commonly used word. Particularly, sympathy is paired with grief and loss. Empathy, on the other hand, is one of the best tools to connect with another. Empathy speaks the truth of we are in this together. On the lack of empathy, there is peril, triumph and discomfort.
One reason our nation is at odds with one another is due to the lack of empathy. It is an every man for himself way of living. The problem is that we need one another to get by and to build our lives up. It is not a question. The barriers between us and empathy are pride and fear. We are prideful to believe that we can do this whole life thing alone. We do not need anyone’s help. We are also fearful that if we do let others help us, they may get farther ahead or may harm us in some way.
While there is a possibility for either of these scenarios to occur, albeit our minds make it out to be far more catastrophic than it is. So, we push away the connection, understanding and comradery from others, just so the story in our heads can play out as close to how we have imagined it to. What challenges us is the notion that we do not have to be right on our notion that others will betray us.
We do not have to take that as truth. We can interrogate those cognitive distortions just like they have us. We get to choose not to let in every thought and emotion as reality. Instead, we can turn toward empathy and humility.
It is a choice. We can choose empathy in each encounter with another. We can choose to share our experience to encourage another in theirs. We get to be a part of a grander healing by relating to one another, not just keeping our stories to ourselves. We are able to say, “I’ve walked a mile in your shoes. I get it.” It takes humility to admit to our mistakes and it takes empathy to find meaning in them.
On the lack of empathy, there is not a valid nor beneficial reason to be empty of it. There is far more to life when we are full of it. We get to make that choice today.