Cultivation of Empathy

In a world where we seem to be separating from each other with our ‘me-ism’, never in the history of mankind has there been a greater need for empathy and understanding of other people. Technology helps us connect, making it is easier than ever to communicate. Yet, despite this, we seem to be more focused on ourselves and our individual opinions than being genuinely concerned with the lives of other people. We can easily remain detached from each other, severing the connection at any time by turning off the switch to the device we are using or closing an app. On the other hand, technology can give us instant insights as to what another person is doing and how they are feeling within moments shared during their day. What is loss with the use of technology is the invaluable connection to experience human emotions in another person which can only be seen and felt in person. The human relationship which exists with face-to-face, real-time interaction, is where we connect on a human level. This is where the presence of a human soul is felt, and the way which humans were meant to connect. It is where we see joy and sorrow that is real, reflected in a person’s face and what their body emits. We can react by joining in celebrating happiness or empathize with their pain more easily than online, because it is real and in-person. While technology is one way to extend empathy and connect, making time in person with people is where empathy is truly cultivated best.

We have our own social circles with family and friends where we find belonging. Belonging is one of the essential parts of human existence. Social circles that have a more exclusive nature about them might be strict in who belongs and who doesn’t. In some cases, exclusiveness may be very valid. There are socially acceptable lines based on wealth, profession, interests, memberships etc. Exclusive groups exist for good reason if they have commonalities. They come together as a reason for those of the same background or interest to find a special place to meet others of the same. However, some groups are exclusive just merely for the sake of popularity and might exclude others for shallow reasons. Seeing people outside these circles as ‘outsiders’ and not acceptable, might be just merely following the status quo dictated by those who have a fear for anyone who might be different. What is key is understanding why these people are seen as different. It is easy to breed stereotypes and assumptions without truly getting to know others who are different. Rather than following assumptions, taking the opportunity to learn more about other beliefs first-hand, is an opportunity to make a new friend rather than cause isolation. What better way to enrich a social circle than to use good etiquette and welcome those who come from different beliefs or facets of life. It may provide a chance for everyone to learn from them as well and have a richer experience of life through inclusion rather than exclusion based on stereotypes.

There is a misunderstand with some cultures that stereotypes and exclusiveness is the quickest route to elitism. Cultures should find this appalling rather than applauding this. There is a special richness found when people of different backgrounds. Well-rounded people are those who have a diverse collection of many kinds of friends and see human-value over differences. Typically those who travel the world are more likely to be accepting, with a greater appreciation and openness to different cultures and beliefs. Those who work directly with people, such as caregivers also have a tendency to extend empathy easier because they see past medical and physical issues and are able to see the person. Young children also are naturally more welcoming to anyone because of their innocence. They accept anyone, still too young to be blinded to the stereotypes which are taught by those who eventually influence them.

Additionally, media has an influence on cultivating empathy and acceptance. Media can help resolve stereotypes and misunderstanding in a unique way. Watching the news, movies, documentaries, or online videos, a person can learn what it means to live with a medical condition, have a certain belief, or live in poverty. Stories are a way to educate as they pull heart-strings and provide a chance to understand what it might be to “walk in another person’s shoes”. It may be easier for a person to find empathy with an actor who lives a situation within a movie, versus a stranger who is encountered in real life.

Cultivating empathy means conquering stereotypes, gossip, and fears to reach out to include others rather than isolate them. Empathy is a way to extend kindness to another person through understanding. It is with empathy that we find a path to growth. Harvest new friendships and be enriched as a result of your kindness!

Article written for Zealousness publication

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