Friday, September 02, 2011

Something about empathy

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.


  1. Anonymous10:36 AM

    "that humbling realization and acceptance of our own shadow" stops me in my tracks MOST of the time I start in with my judgements...though not always and then I get to feel so self-righteous when I really think I am better than someone else (especially some of those right wingers whom I cannot abide!)

    annie c

  2. Oh, Annie C ... love the last line of you comment ... makes me feel that I'm not alone in a sea of dark an frightful people. But, to get back to the blog ... it's funny that you should write about this now, my daughter and I have been struggling with this for some time now ... and we have been getting better at having compassion for these horrible people (ooops, there I go again, have to stop that). It is very hard but we have been making some headway. Since we are both codependent we have to be careful not to excuse too much as it has brought about much heartache and upheaval in our lives. So, we have to learn to balance this. Yikes, my head hurts. I used to have so much compassion for my abuser that it was killing me. Love and Light, Pass On Good Intentions To All !


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