Saturday, September 23, 2006


Empathy is the capacity to feel what another is feeling, to be in genuine solidarity with another, to lose the sense of separateness between yourself and another. Now it's relatively easy to have empathy for someone who is grieving or who has been hurt by another, but what about having empathy for someone who does wrong - who is cruel or unkind? Here's an excerpt from The Power of Empathy: A Practical Guide to Creating Intimacy, Self-Understanding, and Lasting Love by Arthur P. Ciaramicoli and Katherine Ketcham:
Empathy leads us to tolerance, for only with empathy can we build bridges to others who seem so unlike us. Only with empathy can we reach out to people we initially want to push away because we imagine that in their brutality or their simplicity or their stupidity they are not like us. Empathy reminds us that the evil in others is a potential that we also carry within our own hearts. The capacity to hate, to exact revenge, to refuse forgiveness, even to take a life is in you as it is in me as it is in all human beings. That humbling realization and acceptance of our own shadow inevitably and unfailingly leads us to tolerance.
It is so easy to judge another. If I realize that I, too - under the right circumstances - am capable of that for which I judge another, I will have not only tolerance but true compassion.

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