The nature of empathy

Photo by Polina Zimmerman on

Empathy is the ability to experience other people’s fears, sadness, and pains, and identify with these emotions, thereby giving rise to understanding, affection and concern for those who are originally dealing with these emotions. To show empathy, you must first understand what another person is going through, understand how unhappy their experiences make them feel, and make an effort to simplify their lives. And while discoveries in psychology and the science of the brain continue to show that empathy can be genetic, just as psychopathy can be genetic, we can state confidently that environment can affect how one grows in their feelings of this immensely important virtue. 

Empathy enables you to help the needy, feed the poor, care for the homeless, and even love those who wrong you. It gives rise to tolerance, kindness, forgiveness, politeness, and humility. It is no doubt the most divine virtue in the universe, because in the absence of it, there cannot be love. When you love those who wrong you, you do so because you understand their insecurities, pains, and fears, and are therefore empathizing with them in a way that they may never be able to understand. Hence, when you show unconditional and ceaseless love and respect to those who diminish you, you show empathy to them, even as they remain ignorant. 

An act of empathy is like light shining from a bountiful, blessed heart. It is easy for this light to be snuffed out by the ceaseless inhumanities a person constantly experiences in this world; but the man who is resilient enough to keep this light shining, regardless of the rejections, belittlement, abuses, and ridicules he may be experiencing, is indeed a divine being. In a world where resentment, envy, vengeance, jealousy, intolerance, and strife thrive, inhumanity is bound to beget inhumanity, hate begets hate, and cruelty begets cruelty. People will hate others because they are hated by others, diminish others because others diminish them, and show indifference because others are indifferent to their wellbeing. It takes empathy to see the root causes of vicious behaviors, and come to accept that people are meant to be more pitied than despised. 

Showing empathy requires having a strong will to dismiss transgressions against you. When you are empathic, other people may wrong you, scorn you, and deride you, but you do not allow their hostile actions ruffle your composure and emotional stability. You overlook those transgressions, and by extension, forgive them. Empathy is not the abundance of sympathy, but the absence of apathy and antipathy. By showing empathy, you are not overly involved in other people’s lives, but are nevertheless a guiding light; willing to give a bit of what you have as a token to the rest of the world. 

So, why should you show empathy? Why should you overlook human wickedness, when it is easier to be indifferent, vengeful and resentful towards other people? In my article, Why you are so essential’, I stated that the essence of our existence is largely determined by how we simplify the lives of the people we encounter; because in actuality, everyone matters, and everyone possesses a light within, waiting to shine into the lives of others. It is our duty to be patient with and make it possible for other people to unleash their true potential and release the light that is buried deep within their souls, so that this light may shine into the lives of other people. We must, hence, show empathy to make our existence in this universe worthwhile; no other way of life would make your life happier and more fulfilling.