The joys of empathy


PERHAPS THE most beautiful of emotions we are gifted with is that of empathy. Mutual understanding is the almost soul-mate power to see and to sympathetically experience life through the eyes of those we come into contact with.

This gift allows us to leave ourselves and to become others for a short while at least. It is nature’s way of liberating us from our egos. Those unable to experience empathy crunch diamonds beneath their feet unaware of their beauty.

Robert Burns (1759 ~ 1796) possessed the gift of emotional altruism when he penned those immortal words, “Oh the gift that God could give us, to see ourselves as others see us.”

It is a wonderful thing to be able to look at others and to experience how they live. Here is Pandora’s Box waiting to be opened. When you do so be prepared to see through a child’s eyes what lies under the Christmas tree.

The next time you are in a tavern gaze unobserved at that old Spanish wine grower. Nearby sits his wife chatting to her friends whom she likely grew up with. Remove your ego just for a moment to look at their past, their present and their future. You see what I mean about Pandora’s Box.

With mutual understanding you share the joys and experience the suffering of others. By empathising you acquire awareness and experience the sharing of burdens borne by fellow travellers. It is when you empathise that you feel the urge to give rather than to take. This emotion teaches you that the joys of giving are far greater than the pleasures of receiving.

There is no harm in giving alms to the needy. If you give a beggar 50 cents he will thank you and he will forget you. However, gifts are much richer if they are of emotional rather than of monetary value.

Instead of looking at a person try looking inside them. You can do this by holding eye contact. At such point you will understand that mutual understanding is far more eloquent than is the written or spoken word.

When eyes meet, fingers lightly touch the hands or shoulder of others, the compassion exchanged will be remembered long after the monetary donation is forgotten. The shared understanding that comes from a genuine word of compassion will be a joy forever.