What Happened to Empathy?

The mainstream stories that have saturated the TV, social media, news and every other media outlet lately have been disturbing. From the sudden deaths of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade within days of each other to the never-ending saga of U.S/Mexico border tensions and separation of families.

Perhaps more disturbing is the lack of empathy, and in some cases, morality of many people; particularly many of those who hide behind their computer screens and spew venom to the masses.

Over the last couple years especially, I’ve become more saddened and disappointed in people as a whole with the way they look at each other and other people's struggles. One thing that seems to be missing is empathy.

Empathy is the ability to recognize, understand and appreciate how other people feel.*

Being empathetic allows you to see things from someone else’s perspective and being sensitive to others’ feelings. In turn, you have a chance to really get to know someone and understand his or her circumstances more. Even if it is not a situation you may have experienced, you are attempting to understand what they may be going through.

Unfortunately, this seems to be lacking in a lot of people’s lives. Just based on social media commentary alone it appears as though people have removed themselves from actually being able to feel and attempt to understand what someone else may be going through.

Open-mindedness seems to have gone right out the window and instead has been replaced with selfishness and greed. A “well it’s not happening to me so I don’t care” attitude wrapped in judgment and invincibility of similar situations appears to run rampant.

The truth is, no one really knows what will happen next and what life will bring us. We can try our best to plan for life’s unexpected situations but we are all a phone call away from hearing the worst news of our lives or an illness away from being completely debilitated. You just never know.

The good thing about empathy is it is something that can be learned IF you are willing to put in the work including showing compassion and not being so judgmental.

My hope is, as we become more entranced and hypnotized by this world enveloped with social media and news, we take the time to 1) attempt to understand other people’s situations by lending an open heart and ear to bad situations and a congratulations to great situations 2) cherish our in-person personal and professional relationships more and 3) simply show more compassion.

We’re all on this world together. Showing a little empathy doesn’t take that much effort and the best part is, it’s free!

"Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself" Mohsin Hamid

*High Performing Systems, Inc.

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