There is no school curriculum, university course of study or life lesson strategy called “Empathy.” It isn’t taught and to my knowledge, there is no feel-good, group dynamic or happiness seminar where you can learn it.
The fact that empathy is observed-only behavior is nowhere more evident than in a classroom. It always touches me to see how accommodating and helpful students can be with special needs children. They are often gentle, assisting and patient.
On the other side, it always dismays and disappoints me to see students and teachers who are devoid of compassion. These are the kids who see someone fall on the playground and walk around him. It can also be a teacher who sees me struggling with a student, shakes her head, smiles to herself and walks away.
Many of my loyal writing clients report that I am fully conscious of their voices and consistently duplicate them. This is the highest compliment that I can be paid. Perhaps it is because I consider empathy an active process rather than a passive state.
Often I wonder how our world could be enhanced if we practiced more empathy and less revenge, anger or violence. Understand that this is a skill and lifestyle that requires patience and practice. Frequently, I silently count to ten on the road before I comment on someone’s disrespectful driving. Or I quietly approach a recalcitrant child who is having a tantrum before I send him for discipline or a time-out.
The prerequisite is intent. If empathy isn’t natural or automatic, consider the amount of good that you can deposit into the world. It’s free, painless, contagious and has the potential for chain reaction. The world will be glad that you did. Shalom.