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Dear Gy, Have you heard me use the word ’empathy’ before? You may be confusing it with the term ‘sympathy’ and you wouldn’t be alone.
A lot of people do that too. Today, I will talk about why you need empathy in a world that needs it more and more with every passing day.
Empathy is where you listen to another person, really listen, and feel the pain that they are going through.
It’s that quality which allows you to step out of your comfort zone and place yourself in another person’s shoes.
Empathy allows you to experience compassion for another without judgement. And that is one of the hardest things to do these days.
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One of the best explanations of empathy can be found in this short video by Brene Brown, one of my favourite writers and speakers.
I am going to share a few ways that you can follow empathy and how you can ensure you continue to do so.
Read books that guide your emotions:
Do you remember what you loved about the book, ‘Wonder’? You felt the pain of Auggie, the kindness of Summer, the love from the parents and even the perspective of Julian, the bully. That feeling is empathy.
When you read the Harry Potter series, what did you enjoy the most, apart from the fun elements? The fact that you could actually feel the pain of loss, the emotion of grief as key characters left Harry’s life. If a book or a film can do that, imagine how much more powerful it is to experience that in reality.
Continue to read more books that awaken that tender portion of your heart. Nothing widens your horizons like reading and reading extensively.
Practise Empathy in your actions:
What did you enjoy about the time you had your grandparents over? Yes, it was great fun, of course. But you insisted that they put up their feet and every time Ammamma felt tired, you would press her feet, offer to bring her water and spend time listening to her talk. You did this all voluntarily, if you recall.
Do the same for anyone in your life- parents, friends, siblings, grandparents, strangers- everyone appreciates it.
Most often, that’s all people need. A kind listener and someone who will help take the weight off their minds.
Offer compassion without expecting anything in return
This one is particularly tough because most of our actions are built around some sort of give and take. It’s not your fault or mine; that’s just the way the world is. But there’s a way to get around it and I will share what I do.
One of the things Amma does as part of her job is offer help to bloggers and other parents. Many times, I do it on the blog itself but I also reply to those who ask me questions over e-mail, in a private group or even a personal message. I don’t expect anything in return. I do this freely because I truly believe that when you offer help you get repaid in ways that you don’t even expect.
You did the same thing recently with your young cousin, if you recall. Her morbid fear of water was washed away when you gently held her in the swimming pool and convinced her that she’d be safe in your care. You could do that because many years ago, when you had that fear, someone else did the same thing for you. That’s how empathy gets repaid. It will happen without your realising it and that’s the best thing possible.
Empathy is one trait that will hold you in good stead as you grow older, wiser and kinder. The world has a nasty way of turning us into cynics and disbelievers of everything that is good and kind. But today, I want you to promise me that you will not lose this quality. The empathy I see in your eyes, the kindness I see in your actions and the compassion I experience in your behaviour brings a lump to my throat every time I come across it.
Be empathetic today and know that tomorrow, the world will turn around and be empathetic in turn.
What goes around, comes around.
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I am writing short notes to my daughter on some aspects that I hold very dear. This was originally planned as part of the A to Z Challenge, but due to time constraints I have decided to write the posts over a longer period.
I hope you enjoy these snippets as much as I love writing them.
Thank you for being part of my journey.
*Featured and pin images courtesy: Shutterstock