Day 2411: Empathy, again

Yesterday, in my therapy group, I wrote the word “empathy” twice on the white board.



I wrote “empathy” twice because I heard and experienced so much of it from the group participants. I especially noted and appreciated it because I hear and experience so little empathy, these days,  from world leaders.

Why do the participants in a therapy group seem to have so much more empathy than world leaders?

Is it because “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”?

Is it because people who have come together to cope, heal, support, and learn from each other naturally have more empathy?

What does your empathy tell you about that?

Here’s a definition of empathy, again:


the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
synonyms: affinity with, rapport with, sympathy with, understanding of, sensitivity toward, sensibility to, identification with, awareness of, fellowship with, fellow feeling for, like-mindedness, togetherness, closeness to
“what is really important about learning a language is learning empathy for another culture”

Here are some quotes about empathy:

Empathy is really the opposite of spiritual meanness. It’s the capacity to understand that every war is won and lost.  And that someone’s pain is as meaningful as your own.  — Barbara Kingsolver.

Sympathy relies on a common experience. If you’re clumsy, you might have sympathy for others who tend to bump into things. Empathy, on the other hand, is the ability to understand another person’s feelings even if you’ve never experienced them yourself. —  Joe Gebbia

A prerequisite to empathy is just paying attention to the person in pain.  — Daniel Goleman

Human nature is complex.  Even if we do have inclinations towards violence, we also have inclination to empathy, to cooperation, to self-control.  — Steven Pinker

Empathy begins with understanding life from another person’s perspective. Nobody has an objective experience of reality.  It’s all through our own individual prisms.  — Sterling K. Brown

Empathy is the latest code word for liberal activism, for treating the Constitution as malleable clay to be kneaded and molded in whatever form justices want. It represents an expansive view of the judiciary in which courts create policy that couldn’t pass the legislative branch or, if it did, would create voter backlash.  — Karl Rove

When you show deep empathy towards others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That’s when you can get more creative in solving problems. — Stephen Covey

The struggle of my life created empathy — I could relate to pain, being abandoned, having people not love me. — Oprah Winfrey

Empathy is the starting point  for creating a community and taking action. It’s the impetus for creating change. — Max Carver

Empathy is a tool for building people into groups, for allowing us to function as more than self-obsessed individuals.  — Neil Gaiman

Is there empathy in my other photos from yesterday?
















Which of those photos represents empathy best, to you?

For me, it’s this one:


Or maybe this one:


If necessity is the mother of invention, what is empathy? Here‘s  “Call Any Vegetable” by the Mothers of Invention:

Any empathy in this quote from Frank Zappa, the leader of the Mothers of Invention?

The mind is like a parachute.  It doesn’t work if it’s not open.

I look forward to the empathy in your comments, below.

Empathic thanks to all who helped me create today’s post and — of course! — to YOU.


Categories: definition, group therapy, personal growth, photojournalism, quotes | Tags: , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

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18 thoughts on “Day 2411: Empathy, again

  1. I’ve always been taught that empathy is the ability to share someone’s pain or emotions because you’ve had similar experiences. This is completely opposite to Joe Gebbia’s quote. Don’t know why this bothers me, I guess it’s because I’ve had so many years of empathy training as a teacher.

  2. I mistyped your blog address into my browser today and was taken instead to your helpful hints page, which you wrote with empathy in 2013. I am going to give it to one of my kids, who is much in need of it today. Thank you.

  3. I feel empathy for anyone who doesn’t think this is a great time to be alive. The world may be in a terrible state at the moment but I see so much potential for things to get better. And I’m happy to know the prunes will respond to me. I certainly respond to them.

  4. I find that empathy is so important in our world today, Ann. I think, that you are right about the people, who search for help, often are more empathic, because they are open to find solutions.

  5. Empathy for me is enter in the same wave of another person, culture, language, etc…, thanks for sharing this post Ann!!!

  6. I am still with you, Ann.

  7. Empathy having a place in leading the world? – I wouldn’t expect the leaders to sympathise with that

  8. The flag best shows empathy, though it happens so often now it has become more ritualistic than empathetic, a fabric equivalent of “thoughts and prayers”.

    Sorry to be so negative today. I keep thinking of the little girl crying because her father was taken away in an ICE raid. “He’s not a criminal.” I think I am empathetic, but fear I am just numb that anything so cruel happens in my country. ENOUGH!

  9. The lack of empathy confuses me. I think I previously thought people without empathy were in the minority, and I no longer really believe that. I jut don’t know what to do with that thought. I love the quotes, Ann.

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