Can You Feel It Too?
“You can only understand people if you feel them in yourself.” – John Steinbeck.
Some habits come naturally to others, while some have to acquire such habits. Empathy is one of such habits. It is the “ability to understand and share the feelings of others.” It is mostly confused with sympathy, but there is a distinction between the two terms. Sympathy is the “shared feeling, usually of sorrow, pity or compassion for another person.” The best way to describe empathy is “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes”, on the other hand, sympathy is “feeling sorry for someone while wearing your own shoes”. Both are very important, but the world needs more empathy.
According to psychologists Daniel Goleman and Paul Ekman, there are three types of empathy: cognitive, emotional, and compassionate.
• Cognitive empathy – This is the ability to understand how someone else feels and to work out what they might be thinking.
• Emotional empathy or Affective empathy – This refers to the ability to share another person’s emotions. This means when you see someone else who is sad, it makes you feel sad.
• Compassionate empathy or Empathic Concern – This is when you take feelings to actions. It goes beyond understanding and relating to other people’s situations and pushed an individual to do something.
It doesn’t matter what type of empathy you choose to cultivate; it is the feeling itself that counts. We are currently living in dangerous and sad times, and we need empathy now more than ever. The current pandemic we are facing right now – Coronavirus or Covid-19 or whatever term it’s being referred to on social media these days is a manifestation of how many people lack empathy. So many people are not even aware of their lack thereof, and it is quite pitiful.
Now is the time to check yourself. Start putting yourself in someone else’s position, and the world might just be a better place. “Social distancing” and stay- at- home procedures were introduced to curb the spread of the virus, yet some are still disobeying the rules that have been put in place, and you know why? It is because they do not have the virus and have not sat down to consider what being infected really means. If we all take a moment, to sit down, put ourselves in the position of thousands of people that have died, and the thousands of people that are still infected, we would realize that sitting home and praying is really the least we can do. Some people have made several comments (mostly insensitive) like – “the flu kills every day, what’s so special about this virus?”, “People die every second, so what?”. Hmmmmm! It’s easy to say this with every bit of nonchalance because it has not affected us or our loved ones (I pray it never will). I really want each one of us to take a minute to think about our next words before we say it, think about that action before actually doing it. Ask yourself – “How would I feel if someone said that to me?”, “how would I feel if someone did that to me?”. Really, just put yourself in someone else’s position, before you take any step. It’s easy to judge people when you aren’t wearing their shoes!
The best way to practice empathy is to LISTEN. We must learn to really listen to each other, set aside our thoughts and opinions, and be attentive- this is the only way we can feel each other’s pain. Actively chasing empathy [and sympathy] is an important part of what it means to emulate God in His love. I want to be more like God, don’t you?