Empathy

The country we live in is as divided as it has been in the last 150 years and we know how that turned out. We have two camps that are loggerheads and can’t seem to see eye to eye on anything.

Both sides have a stubborn subculture within them that is unable to compromise. Furthermore, both sides have been demonizing the other for so long that the “opposing” side is seen as not worth trying to negotiate with as they are unable to be reasoned with. These subcultures are set in a worldview that their way is right and there is no information that can change their minds on what needs to be done to fix the problems as they see them.

As a general rule I try to see the world from as many other people’s positions as I can. I try to look at their circumstances and ask myself what would my life be like if I was in their position. Way too often people don’t try to look at other people’s positions and try to comprehend what life must be like from their position.

An excellent example of someone changing their minds on something once it affected them was the case of Senator Rob Portman. He is a Republican senator out of Ohio. In 2013 he changed his stance on gay marriage. Not because he had suddenly had an epiphany about making the world equal for everyone but because his son came out as gay. Now he understood  what gay people had been fighting for. Once the decision affected his family his understanding and stance changed. In too many cases people don’t change their minds until they become affected by something.

In anther case, a friend of mine wrote an article to the local paper about a girl who was driving through his neighborhood at a high rate of speed regularly. His concern was that it was dangerous as there were a lot of children in the neighborhood and she was driving at such a rate that she would likely hit a child. The letter was widely read and he later bumped into a girl who had realized that she shouldn’t drive so fast on the mountain either. This is exactly the type of end result that my friend wanted. People slowing down to protect lives. While the letter achieved the desired result, the girl my friend encountered slowed down not because she realized the harm she could cause others, she didn’t want a letter being written about her like that.

I wish that we could do more to teach people to be aware that the people around them have feelings and dreams and desires. We need to reach out and touch those lives yet not crush those dreams and desires. As humanists, I think we can strive to make as many people reasonably happy as possible.

 

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