Opinion: The Importance of Empathy

Stepping into someone else’s shoes can make a difference in everyone’s life.
A painted rock encourages people to Stay Safe & Be Kind.
A painted rock encourages people to “Stay Safe & Be Kind”.
Photo by Lisa Fotios (Pexels)

Empathy is the ability to “understand and share the feelings of another person”. When someone is struggling, scared, lonely, or feeling any emotion, having people who are empathetic and try to truly understand their perspective can shift the whole situation. Thousands of people have said that empathy is the thing that saved them when they needed help the most. Listening and trying to understand and sympathize with people can save lives. On a greater scale, having empathy for larger groups of people can save millions of lives.
With social media being such a prominent aspect of the world, desensitization is becoming a big issue. There is so much pain and suffering being portrayed in the media, and after so many years of witnessing this online, many people are beginning to have a hard time understanding the severe issues that many people are facing.

Desensitization is the biggest cause of a loss of empathy throughout society. It is very hard to truly understand what someone else is feeling when you’re watching their struggle from a small screen, where you can put your device down and forget about ever hearing their story. Social media takes away the connection and perspective people used to have, because they would witness people’s struggles in person or a newspaper, and they would be less common. Now, it feels like every second there is a new article, video, or post about horrible events. Though people are often still saddened by this, witnessing these events online, even live on video sometimes, is so frequent that it seems normal. This causes less of a reaction, and even the thought of, “who cares, I see things like this every day”.

Taking interest in the worries and concerns of others can make a huge difference to those around you. (Photo by: Raphael Brasileiro (Pexels))

This fake sense of normality is extremely scary, and serious changes need to be made to reshape the world to become a better place. A great place to start in trying to rebuild is emphasizing the necessity of empathy as human beings. Without empathy, our society as a whole could worsen and the kindness that sets humans apart falters. Albert Einstein once said, “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.” and this truly emphasizes its importance. Without empathy, what prevents people from hurting others through their words and actions? It is very easy to ignore other perspectives when you do not understand them, which can lead to violence and misinformation. Many wars have been fought simply due to people being selfish, and wanting materialistic things like more land or oil. If they instead took time to empathize with the people around them, negotiations could be worked out instead of mindless invasions and killing.

Mastersincommunication.org says, “Without compassionate empathy, the world would be a much darker and less functional place to live.” We live in a highly industrial and advanced society, that has access to the most catastrophic weapons that have ever been seen. Humans have access to things that can wipe out whole populations in one blow. This has been done before, for selfish reasons with no focus on empathetic decision-making. Whenever violent war attacks like bombings and nuking are committed, it is clear that the people who chose to follow through with the crime are doing so for selfish reasons. Wars are an outdated concept, always with the motive of more power or territory. If empathy is encouraged and taught, many diplomatic negotiations would happen in the place of these violent, earth-shattering wars. By taking the time to be empathetic, to listen and try to “put yourself in others’ shoes”, you not only become a better person and friend, but you help shape the world for the better.

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