All of the world’s religions teach us to love one another. We, humans, have enormous love within us; only if we realise it and are willing to share. But somewhere behind dealing with the world’s harsh realities and running behind materialism, we’ve forgotten how to be empathetic towards the universe. Where on one side a crying child or an injured dog moves us from within, on the other hand, a large number of people suffering under various circumstances fail to even make a movement in our hearts.
What does Empathy really mean?
According to psychologists, empathy is the experience of understanding another person’s condition from their perspective. You place yourself in their shoes and feel what they are feeling. Empathy is known to increase prosocial (helping) behaviours. While today’s culture might be socializing people into becoming more individualistic rather than empathetic, research has uncovered the existence of “mirror neurons,” which react to emotions expressed by others and then reproduce them. It is the total experience of being shoulder to shoulder, eye to eye, heart to heart, and toe to toe with another human being.
In today’s highly competitive world we are so hardwired only to think about ourselves and our own benefits that people are willing to stoop down to any level for their selfish gains. The Dalai Lama has stated that “ME, ME, ME” people are the first to suffer heart attacks. He said that those who are empathetic with “great open hearts” swim in an oceanic connectedness of emotional and physical well-being. For those who are closed down, the ocean dries up, and they are destroyed.
Empathy, I feel, is a practice that enhances one’s life, gives meaning and expands your experiences about the things going around the world. When we decide and step outside our own existence, problems and emotions it’s only then that we experience a deep-rooted connection and go through a soul-satisfying journey. In order to grow as a human, we must be able to accept and embrace the wide variety of experiences that come our way – whether you experience it yourself or by putting yourself in someone else’s shoe experiencing it. We can never evolve living within the boundaries that we create for ourselves.
Time and again I’ve been told by people that I am doing no good to myself by being so kind and empathetic towards others. I’ve also been told that I just love to inflict pain and suffering on myself; which is definitely not true. Being kind or good to someone selflessly is not a sign of weakness… In fact, it is one of the most attractive, beautiful and important traits that every human should possess.
I am often found inside other people’s head. I think, analyze, worry and pay attention. I make efforts to ensure that people around me are happy and comfortable. All I really want is that people when with me are happy. There’s nothing more I love than to spread happiness. The satisfying feeling that I get when someone smiles or laughs because of what I did is extremely fulfilling. I put other people’s happiness before mine because that’s just what gives me happiness. I want to be the person who makes others feel like they are valued.
We live in difficult times; showing empathy and being kind to others selflessly is an act of service. With empathy, you extend yourself to meet another where they are and stop for a while to sit with them in their suffering; which is immensely important for personal evolution. Empathy gives us the power to transform and elevate us while making the world a better place.
“The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind.
It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it.”
∼ David Orr (environmental scientist)