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The rising economic hardships have forced many people to spend more time on hobbies and careers with little attention to other people’s lives. This means that they have no time left to listen to the woes of other people, to comfort those who are in pain, and to help them come of the problems surrounding them. Clearly, there is no doubt that we as human beings, ought to exercise empathy to the feelings, concerns, problems and predicaments facing other people. This article examines the meaning of empathy, the connection between empathy and life, and the importance of expressing empathy. It shows what it means to have empathy as a human being. The article will also examine the effects of expressing empathy and those of not expressing empathy.
The meaning of Empathy
We can define empathy as the ability to identify with a situation that another person is going through. In other words, empathy is the ability to put oneself in somebody’s situation as a way of expressing concern on what the other person is experiencing. When a person identifies with another person’s situation and tries to alleviate or mitigate the stressing factor in the situation, then one can say that he or she is expressing empathy. Acts of empathy may therefore include such actions as giving food to the needy in the society or providing shelter to those who are homeless. Generally, empathy has much to do with acts of kindness directed to people faced with situations, which are hostile. Thus, empathy is a form of kindness directed to people who need it based on how the donor or the person giving has perceived the situation at hand. For example, if a person living in Richmond loses a family member through death, the neighbors and relatives to come and comfort the family for the loss. In this way, they are expressing their empathies to those who affected (Eisenberg 3-7).
Most importantly, for a person to express empathy there must be bad scenarios that brings fear, discomfort, pain, and suffering. These scenarios must have created a clear psychological difference between the person being empathetic and the one who is the subject of empathy. Generally, two persons in the same unfortunate situation may not manifest empathy feelings towards each other. This is because of undergoing the same situation and neither of them may be in a position to help the other. However, if two people are experiencing different unfortunate circumstances at the same time, they may be able console each other thus, they may show empathy to each other. For instance, a bereaved person living in Richmond, Virginia may show empathy to another person who has lost his or her house to fire.
Connection between empathy and life in Richmond, Virginia
The word “empathy” is synonymous to “awareness” meaning that people who show empathy to others are sympathetic and would love to help those in trouble. For example, a youth living in Richmond, Virginia can express empathy to his or her friend experiencing loneliness by visiting the friend, and even watching a movie together. In some instances, some students offer to help others who are weak in math and sciences. Some people also show empathy by listening to the woes affecting other people while sharing a cup of coffee. In fact, empathy dwells more on emotional development than just being aware of the problems facing other people. For instance, in college, I have found some of my friends depressed just because they did not score good grades in the test. All they needed was sympathy and someone to encourage them that there is always another time to perform better. Somebody to make them understand that they need to change their reading habits or change some tactics in order to score good grades (Gallese 175-176).
As we have seen above, empathy is the ability to express feelings towards troubles, problems, and challenging times facing another person by showing sympathy and understanding. Sometimes, life can fix. When I first came to Richmond, I experienced homesick for a long period. A simple thing can cause me cry and I felt so much depressed. I had no friends at that time. Luckily, I met a colleague friend of mine who had noticed my depression. After lecture, he will invite me to accompany him to a restaurant where he could tell me the history of Richmond, studies, and his hobbies as we took coffee. With time, the homesick I used to experience disappeared. Indeed this is a classic example of empathy involving two people. Definitely, I was in a hostile situation and that friend came to assist me come out of that situation. It is worth noting that acts of empathy or helping others who are a hostile situation or in a position that need assistance should be on a voluntary basis. In other words, if someone wants to help a disadvantaged person, it should be voluntary and he or she should not expect something in return. Therefore, empathy has everything to do with the willingness to help out of one’s own volition or free will (Vincent 16-19).
Importance of empathy
Empathy is an important virtue possessed by human beings. People can express empathy in different ways. There is no doubt that people of all classes live in the city. There are those who are rich, while others are less privileged. Those who privileged should help those living in deplorable conditions. For instance, we have very many organizations in Richmond that assist the less privileged. We have also seen people visit children homes where they donate clothing and food to the children. Most of the children in these homes are orphans, and therefore, they do not have someone to cater for their needs. By spending time with them, playing and talking with them, they feel part of the community. This is important as it enables them to develop self-confidence and enhance their self-esteem. Apart from spending time with them, people also have time to educate them on necessary issues. By talking to them, the children also feel cared for and they can go on with their lives as if they have their biological parents (Slote 57-73).
Just like in any other society, people in Richmond also fall sick. Once admitted in hospital, they experience psychological stress, as they stand separated from their family members. It is the prerogative of the members of the family and friends to visit patients in hospitals, say encouragement words to them, and wish them quick recovery. This will definitely make them feel happy (Hojat 15-24).
Nobody should underestimate the importance of empathy to the community. In Richmond, many primary schools emphasize the importance of empathy to pupils, and they encourage them to help always their classmates, family members, and other people who may be in problems. Additionally, people should learn that indifference and insensitivity do not help at all, and they should express sympathy to those facing difficulties in life.
Eisenberg, Nancy. Empathy and Its Development. New York: CUP Archive, 1990. Print.
Gallese, Vittorio. “The Roots of Empathy: The Shared Manifold Hypothesis and the Neural Basis of Intersubjectivity”. Psychopathology 36.4(2003): 171–180. Print.
Hojat, Mohammad. Empathy in Patient Care: Antecedents, Development, Measurement, and Outcomes. New York: Springer, 2007. Print.
Slote, Michael. The Ethics of Care and Empathy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Print.
Vincent, Steve. Being Empathic: A Companion for Counselors and Therapists. New York: Radcliffe Publishing, 2005. Print.