Empathy is one of the abilities that makes us human. Without it, our society would spin into chaos. Empathy is often debated as either learned behavior or ingrained in our brain from birth; nature versus nurture. Either way, it is an essential element in our everyday lives, whether we are aware of it or not. The dictionary defines empathy as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another” but it seems to be much, much more than that. Empathy can make or break any relationship; romantic, friendly, professional, or otherwise. It is a component in our lives that make us seem friendly, understanding, caring and loving.
Think of the person closest to you. Chances are, they’re extremely empathetic. You may find yourself confiding in them in your times of need, you may vent to them after a rough day, or you may share your excitement about an event that happened during your day with them. All of these things are what make empathy so important. A truly empathetic person is selfless. They will listen endlessly without question and will constantly offer support.
But empathy extends beyond our family and closest friends. In recent times, people of countless different backgrounds have suffered horrible tragedies. It is undoubtedly necessary for people around the world to be empathetic towards the victims and their families (blood or otherwise). Just in this past week there have been horrible events right here at home in Minnesota, Dallas, and Baton Rouge. While all differing scenarios, one thing should remain constant: our empathy for those involved. Instead of responding to hate with more hate, responding with empathy is the gateway for change. Change comes with understanding, and as the definition of empathy reads, understanding emotions and thoughts of those around you can pave the way to a brighter future. To label, discriminate, and outright hate those different from you without stopping to empathize is wrong — plain and simple. To refuse to be empathetic is to hinder your own growth as well as the growth of our society and culture.
“To understand and share feelings of another” is to change perspective. To look at life through another’s eyes is to expand your own mind and thoughts. It may take practice, it may seem unfair and useless, but when a person who you were there for in their time of need comes to you to thank you, it is a humbling and fulfilling experience. Give it a shot, walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.