Empathy Found or maybe Lost

I have at times felt embarrassed over my lack of education, writing skill, and the general lack of professionalism in my posts. I do on rare occasions read something I have posted, this is almost always a bad idea. It results in me asking myself, ” man, was I on drugs?” Then I comfort myself with the fact that yes, I am on several. I am not sure they really affect my writing so I will just take a couple more painkillers. Just kidding. In all seriousness I have come to a less than monumental decision. I have decided that rather than to feel shame that I am almost old and still write  like a child or someone who don’t know English too good, I will take pride in it. I will continue to leave my mind find free of sophisticated thought and will not attempt to sound intelligent. I am able to do this in all good conscious, in part because of the topic of my present post; On Empathy. I thought I would start with a definition because this would give everyone a common meaning and central starting point. Being almost old, I chose Merriam-Webster and this is what I found:

Definition of empathy

1:  the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it.

Please think about it carefully, get a mental picture if you can. Now some of you like me having limited intelligence immediate reaction is “What’s that you say”‘  But if you really concentrate and free yourself of any preconceived ideas of meaning something may come to mind. After much contemplation, I realized it reminded me of a high school dream I had before I understood women couldn’t be thought of as sex objects. I never would of guessed it was the foundation of empathy. Anyway, I am sure hearing Meriam use empathy in an everyday sentence will surely shed some much needed light on the subject.

“This is tough love with a vengeance, but what a gruesome view of God’s saints bereft of all empathy. —Sidney Callahan, Commonweal, 19 Apr. 2002″

I freely, if not proudly admit I do not know Sidney Callahan perhaps that explains the lack of clarity for me. So am I to understand the best example of empathy is calling Dante’s Inferno tough love or I guess he was describing a lack of empathy. Being more confused now than at the start; I was relieved to find Webster provided a link to a kids definition for the childlike among us. In addition, there was provided an English as a second language definition, both of which I found enlightening.

Main Entry: em·pa·thy
Function: noun
: a being aware of and sharing another person’s feelings, experiences, and emotions; also : the ability for this

ˈɛmpəθi/Learner’s definition of EMPATHY

[noncount]     empathy  /  ˈɛmpəθi/noun       ( I  don’t know what this means  ˈɛmpəθi/)

the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions

He felt great empathy with/for/toward the poor.

It is comforting to know that for children and people like me that don’t know English too good, empathy means what I thought it did. Now I can write about it being unencumbered by what is considered adult like intelligent thought. For those of you who would consider this a poor excuse for bad writing remember Jesus suggests that we come to him like children.

The first thing I would ask is that you approach my ideas in an empathic way. Look for emotions and experiences you may have had both real and imagined that allow you to relate to the post. If at times this requires you to suspend rational thought so be it. This my friends is about feelings, unless you think actions are important. Does true empathy require action? Is it enough to mimic their emotion and say I feel your pain? The answer to these questions are tricky and not given to easy blanket statements. It is not my intention to try and solve the much discussed empathy deficit in modern countries like our own. There are also many cases which clearly require specialized techniques; these are beyond my pay grade. Instead, I would like to discuss the connections we have that allow insight and understanding, walking a mile in another’s shoes so to speak. It seems to me that it might be useful to break empathy down into three categories; individual, organizational, and societal. Then take each category and try to determine which factors should influence how, when, and what our reaction should be. I would suggest most people have empathy sometimes with some people, but not all the time with all people. I will give a brief definition of each of the three categories listed, which I will attempt to flush out in my next post. That will hopefully provide an opportunity for people to share their feelings on empathy. Individual empathy is one on one, organizational empathy takes place within the context of a specific group for example a sports team, church or club. Societal empathy is the larger view of society as a whole. While some might see this as really stretching the idea of empathy, I would argue that people can and sometimes do form connections with all the categories based on shared feelings, emotions, and experiences. This is more of an introduction than a real post, but I would so much like to hear your thoughts and concerns on the subject.

To be continued.

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