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Empathy & the Politics of Tenderness

Empathy leads to Peace

It is almost impossible to grow up.  Most people just get older -- Maya Angelou

An essay by Tim Wolcott

Empathy can be crushed

Rancor for the ‘other’ has long been an effective tool of the Right to mobilize supporters.  In their plans, empathy is to be avoided at all costs. Many adults, harboring unresolved anger and mistrust, look to strong-man saviors.  Exploiting fear, these “saviors” maintain and create socio-economic stress, propelling us all to potential global destruction.

Empathy can be crushed

Empathy can be crushed by the rhetoric of strong-men.

Empathy can be difficult

On the other hand, those people, hoping for equity and sustainability offer a significant opportunity on the Left for combating those fears. But organizing the hopeful is difficult. It requires more than living a good life - eating healthy, being kind, donating to charity. It  requires shared empathy so powerful we are no longer frightened by the strong-men and are willing to take action.

Loving presence - Empathy is reaching out

Empathy is reaching out.

Empathy is the antithesis of anger

Empathy, as we have pointed out many times on this blog,  requires emotional development, and that is not easy to accomplish.

For much of life I have been angry - angry at injustice, angry at greed, angry at incompetence.  I have felt both personally and politically marginalized.  Periodically, unkind outbursts would occur, but I rationalized them with the belief that I knew better.  Eventually, I realized that the self-centered child in me must not control the compassionate adult that also resides within.  If I am to be the change that we need, I must feel and act with empathy.

Does the inability to empathize start with a resistance to feeling the suffering of others?  Do racism and prejudice encourage this?  I believe so.  I also believe that festering anger diverts emotional growth away from compassion and towards simplistic, selfish behavior.

Empathy is understanding so intimate that the feelings and motives of one are readily comprehended by another.  Many people feel too burdened to give space to other people’s suffering, but the irony is that when we do, we help relieve our own suffering while reducing theirs.  However, the current political discourse banks on the fact that anger is more comfortable than compassion and quite able to be used to maintain status quo.

        Where do you stand?

Are you afraid - frightened by the dire words of the Strong-Men.

Are you hopeful - willing to let the pain of others in and take action on their behalf?

Learn more about Empathy HERE. and then let's talk.

We welcome your thoughts and comments.

Teach Peace Now
Teach Peace Now
We offer books, activities, lesson plans, and ideas that teachers, parents, and students can use to promote values, attitudes and behaviors which encourage non-violent resolution of conflict, respect for human rights, democracy, intercultural understanding and tolerance.

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