Empathy is Badass

     By Kris Wise, MSW, LCSW

Ditch the cig There was a spotlight shining on each person. Well, maybe not, but the air felt so clear everyone seemed illuminated. The march had just ended and the crowd stayed rather than dispersing to other events. While paused I heard music and recognized it as John Lennon’s, “Imagine”. Across multiple lanes of traffic were protestors. They carried a book, a sign, and a mega phone. The title of the book, the message on the sign, and words spoke into the device didn’t matter. This collective power in action, could not be phased by negativity.

While this scene unfolded she noticed a person in the crowd who had become emotional.  “Don’t you feel hope?”, someone said.  She began to cry; all she could feel was their pain.

Empathy by definition seems simple enough. Merriam Webster classically defines empathy as “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.”  Being empathetic, practicing empathy, and experiencing the world beyond your life is complex.

Empathy is a key component to emotional intelligence. Three types of empathy have been identified: cognitive empathy, emotional empathy, and compassionate empathy. Cognitive is a focal point of understanding one’s thoughts and emotions in only a rational sense. Emotional is literally feeling what the other is feeling. Compassionate is taking action to help someone or a cause.  When we are empathetic we hear one another, polarized sides become closer, and we impact social issues.

Allies are empathetic. I knew from life experience she flowed between the three types of empathy. I had benefited and lived a safer, richer life because she has always been my Ally. My sister is badass.