Empathy is a word that tends to carry displaced meaning. It is more than caring about others; it is more than sending in a donation, and it is more than shedding tears when something horrific happens to others.
The definition of empathy is having the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. The ability to truly empathize with others can be challenging. We all come from different backgrounds, religions, races, economic levels and so on.
As many of us have one lens based on biological and environmental history, empathizing with another person may almost seem impossible. However, it is not. As we come together in times of tragedy, we must come together in times that are seemingly peaceful. These are the times that make a difference in our lives, and we may not even be aware of how much we are actually helping each other.
Empathy should be something we breathe in and let out every minute of the day. We interact with various people and strangers on a daily basis; it seems easy to forget that all of us are going through something.
With empathy comes patience, true understanding, and the ability to comfort another person in any time of need, from a horrific tragedy to a simple loss of a baseball game. We can practice empathy and influence the emotions and feelings of others every day of our lives because we are given choices.
- We can choose to smile at a stranger.
- We can choose to not become angry when the car in front of us doesn’t move fast enough and to hold down our middle finger.
- We can choose to assume the waitress is having a bad day and to tip him/her well instead of being angry over cold eggs.
- We can look at someone with a chronic illness that doesn’t show on the outside and truly understand how they may look fine, but are crying in pain on the inside.
- We can look at the girl who may seem happy every day at school, however, she may be depressed every night as she goes home to fighting parents.
- We all know the single mother who is struggling to make ends meet, and the father who cannot put down the bottle are fighting internal struggles every single day.
- We can pause before we write online comments, creating fights and inappropriate behavior can stop. We can choose to write or not. One person behind a computer screen cannot possibly know or understand what that person is going through on the other end.
This list of examples and opportunities for understanding can go on and on.
As a society, we must be more empathetic. We need to try and understand that everyone is feeling something at that moment of interaction; someone or something is on their mind. We can empathize with each other in simple ways through this level of understanding. Human beings were made to care for each other.
Let’s try and be a bit more empathetic with our loved ones and with strangers. Kindness and true understanding about what another person is going through takes patience, positive energy and love. However, just maybe, if we showed empathy in smaller ways, our world can be a better place in bigger ways. For a moment, try to see what others see, and try to feel what others feel, it just might change how we view and treat each other.