Empathy: You Can’t Get Enough Of It

Will - USA
Entered on September 2, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30

“Everybody has his or her own agenda; Try not to take it personally.” Those were the parting words that my boss this past summer had for me when my internship ended at his company. Those words resonated with me immediately. I thought he was right.

When I look at anyone I see an individual agenda. Some of them I know personally. But even if I don’t know you, I ask you all to empathize. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Throughout your day when you walk on campus or back to your school housing, empathize. Empathize with your classmates. Empathize with your teachers. When you get home, empathize with your roommate or roommates. Empathize with your family: Your parents, your brothers your sisters your aunts your uncles your cousins. Empathize with me because I stayed up until 3 a.m. working on this speech the morning before it was due. But don’t feel bad for me. Empathy does not mean to feel sorry for someone.

The dictionary definition of empathy is, “the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another; The imaginative ascribing to an object, as a natural object or work of art, feelings or attitudes present in oneself: By means of empathy, a great painting becomes a mirror of the self (Webster). Empathy is putting yourself in the shoes of whoever or whatever is in that painting. So when I say empathize with me about staying up until 3 a.m. working on this speech I don’t ask for your sympathy I ask for your empathy. Maybe I spent three hours of my labor day trying to get my laundry machines in my house to work and talked with both of my parents for an hour each because they wanted to know how my first week of junior year went? Maybe I did absolutely nothing all day and night and waited until the last minute to begin working? Maybe I went home for the weekend because it was my best friend’s birthday Sunday night? But why I stayed up until 3 a.m. isn’t what’s important.

What’s important is asking these types of questions, in order to understand any given situation better. What’s important is an increase in empathy, seeing the life of the figure in the painting as your own life, in order to understand any given situation better. Your surroundings everyday are made up of a million situations. Understanding your surroundings leads to a greater appreciation for what you have in your life.

So the next time you get home after a long day and your world seems to be falling apart, remember to empathize with the important people in your life. See you through their eyes. Maybe that will help you see the situation from another perspective that you did not consider. Whatever it does, I hope that it helps. And you’re allowed to take that personally.