What makes a person empathetic?
Is it the way a person is raised? The experiences a person has? What someone is taught in school? Through the books someone reads? The profession someone holds? Or are people born inherently empathetic?
I have no idea.
What I do know is that I was raised knowing there are two sides to every story; that everyone has different perspectives and to always put myself in another person’s shoes.
I was taught in school to treat other’s the way I wanted to be treated and that being nice to people was cool. I am and always have been a bookworm. Through the books I read, both fiction and nonfiction, I was able to literally put myself into someone else’s story, whether it be Sal in Walk Two Moons or Anne in The Diary of Anne Frank. Was I born with an empathetic soul? Maybe, maybe not. But empathy has been something I have always recognized and tried to practice.
To be honest, I believed everyone was empathetic (at least a little bit). When I was younger, I didn’t necessarily know it to be empathy, but I thought that putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and feeling the feelings of others, was something everyone did. I’m sure my vast imagination helped me, since I always imagined me living different lives and stories. But the older I got, I realized that empathy, and being an empath, is harder than it seems. And not as common as I’d hope.
Because when I go on social media, or when I turn on the news, it’s horrible how we treat each other. We claim to be a better society than we were 50 years ago, but if you take one scroll through your Facebook timeline, you would think that no one was older than an insecure 13-year-old.
People throw labels on everyone and everything. The minute someone doesn’t hold the same opinion as you, they are deemed to be against everything you believe in. Common ground is not a thing anymore. Respecting and listening to other’s opinions and beliefs is extinct. We hide behind our screens and preach about being an open and loving and positive person that loves every being on this Earth. And then we comment on someone’s post “go to your safe-space, cupcake; keep crying losers; f*ck you liberals; triggered a snowflake!” I mean, it can be quite comedic sometimes (those are actual comments I took from Facebook), but it’s annoying. It’s immature. It’s hypocritical.
Our society has turned into children arguing on a playground about who is right and who is wrong.
When did we forget about empathy?
Empathy is a seven letter word, defined as: the ability to understand and share another’s feelings. Read that sentence again.
Is it that hard to try and understand why someone feels the way they do?
Is it that hard to be aware of the different experiences that each individual has?
Is it really easier to type a paragraph comment tearing someone apart because they support something you don’t, instead of just scrolling past it?
Before you judge someone, put yourself in their shoes. The next time you walk by a homeless person, imagine yourself in their situation. Imagine you were sitting on the street in dirty clothing, not having showered in weeks, a hungry stomach, having to beg for money. Imagine how you would feel getting overlooked, eyes rolled at, assumed you’re using the money for alcohol and drugs, or just plain ignored. What would you do? How would you feel?
Before you comment, think about not only how it will make that person feel, but how it will make you appear as a person. That person on the other side of the screen is still a person. Would you say that if they were standing in front of you? Would you say that to your daughter? Your father? Your significant other? If someone said it to you, would you be okay with it?
Before you blame someone or some group for our current political and societal systems, realize we all come from different experiences, backgrounds, beliefs, and we all don’t think the same, whether you believe that it’s right or wrong. Think about what makes this world unique and possible. It takes all kinds. Have a conversation with someone you may disagree with, and get to know them as a person, and not just their political affiliation.
Think back to the lessons you learned growing up. About character, and kindness, and treating others the way you want to be treated. It seems silly, but the world we live in could use a lesson from a first grade teacher right now.
If we truly want to be a generation of change, we need to start listening to each other. We need to start supporting each other. We need to have conversation. We need to be kinder. You can’t just stop being friends with someone because they don’t believe in everything that you do; You’ll find yourself surrounded with no one. We need to learn to be more open minded. We need to be more understanding. Because if we keep going the rate that we are, there won’t be a human race, or an Earth, for us to be a part of.
We need to break barriers with compassion. We need to build bridges with empathy.
We need to make empathy great again.