Thursday, February 25, 2016

Everybody Can Learn Empathy

"Don't judge a man until you've walked two moons in his moccasins" (Sharon Creech "Walk Two Moons"), step in their shoes, jump into their skin and get a feel from their perspective. That is the essence of empathy. I believe that you can teach someone to have empathy, and here is why; empathy is not something you are born with. It is something you learn. We are born ready to learn empathy, through other people and from stories (John Green). There are three great reasons why I think people can learn empathy, because we are born naturally caring, because our lives revolve around others' lives in so many ways, and because we're all different.

Correspondingly, every human cares about something. A mom always cares for her son. Even after he makes mistakes, his mom can see the emotions in him; confusion, anger, wrong and forgiveness. She sends him to his room, but hugs him before he goes. Her mom probably did the same to her when she was young. This mutual understanding is the goal of empathy. How about when a man helps an elderly women clear her driveway after a snowstorm? Or when you help a kid who broke his leg carry his books to class? These actions where people are "listening out for people's feelings and needs" (BBC Magazine 3) may seem to be simply nice things people do for others, but I think their is understanding, care, and generosity weaved into that. You might not have been in that situation before, though you want to help. I'll repeat, every human cares, and to learn to care is a step in learning empathy.

Furthermore, we all live on the same planet. We are all humans. Are lives are all intertwined. Sometimes we forget how much of an impact we make on the other people in our lives. We'll meet a lot of people in our lives, and we'll pass by even more. But what if you stopped and had a conversation with the homeless man instead of easily walking past him? (BBC Magazine 4) You might be surprised at how much you can improve your empathy and build a friendship. (BBC Magazine 5) Your elementary school teacher was probably giving you empathetic pointers, too. When her class of students is talking and throwing paper airplanes during class, she'd say something along the lines of  ""hold back from interrupting, and... reflect back" (BBC Magazine) on what I've taught today." That line holds a lesson in itself. Listen to the people around you. Think about what they've said. You wouldn't simply dismiss your mom's scolding, or risk making the same mistake again. As children we are taught empathy from the lives of the people around us.

Additionally, it is a well-known fact that no snowflake compared to any other will be exactly alike. Every flake is different in some way. Just like us. No human lives the same lives as any other. Ourselves are modeled by time and sculpted by our experiences. "Developing an awareness of all those individuals" (BBC Magazine) around you can help better shape your life with theirs. Get a feel for their life and add empathy to yours. You could learn empathy at a baseball game. When you look out at everyone gathered in the stadium, you recognize what they're all here for the same reason and you recognize how many people in your area you never knew before had the same interests as you. Or on those master chef shows where everyone creates a unique dish revolved around the same few ingredients. As you watch more a competitor is eliminated each round. You cherished the fervor and stress for time, felt their disappointment after witnessing their lose or cheered them in victory, and relived their backstories. People can learn empathy even from the television. Characters and stories can hold a lot of lessons in empathy, too (John Green).

Given these points, I think I have covered the obvious: people can learn empathy. I have discussed three main ways why I believe empathy can be learned, through our differences, the people connected to us in our environment and because of our ability to care. I have also covered many ways within these reasons that people learn empathy. To help sum of what I've said, remember that "people are more than just the way they look" (Madeleine L'Engle, "A Wrinkle In Time").