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Developing Empathy

Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat quote Roman Krznaric on their blog Spirituality and Practice  pointing out that empathy is not kindness or the Golden Rule but "the ability to step into the shoes of another person, aiming to understand their feelings and perspectives, and to use that understanding to guide our actions."  They give us a list of six habits of empathetic people: 

1. Talk with strangers ... "Don't be an examiner, be the interested inquirer." 2. Challenge prejudices and discover commonalities by keeping an open mind and heart. 3. Try another person's life by expanding your experience of others. 4. Listen hard and open up; listening and openness are two practices in the Alphabet of Spiritual Literacy, and they are necessary to be an empathetic conversationalist. 5. Inspire mass action and social change as a concrete outcome of our empathy for others. 6. Develop an ambitious imagination, which means expanding our circle of empathy in creative ways.

We  live in a time when competition is emphasized as a way to success and the message is impacting children before they get to kindergarten.  We live in a time where there are many more victims of that ideology (say losers to use a common term) and where the winners are becoming fewer.  Consequently we become the oppressed and oppressors. 

Without empathy we cannot redirect the trends in our society that harm us and our children.


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