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Brave New Blog: Empathy and Shades of Grey

29 Jun

Well, I caved.

It may be that every person out there has a blog, but after reading tons of posts from some of my favorite blogs, I decided that I had more to say than could go in a comment box. Hence the introduction of The Empathetic Writer!

In trying to come up with a content theme for this blog, I thought about what I feel seeps into every aspect of my life, and that turned out to be trying to understand issues from all points of view. That doesn’t mean I don’t have my own opinions and gut reactions, but it does mean that I can step outside myself and then make my final decision on a subject. This, in a word, is called empathy. And commentators can call me out when they think I’m not being empathetic enough but will not be allowed to hate on me. This isn’t a throw-tomatoes-at-the-blogger site.

I will cover subjects from philosophy, religion, politics, law, social issues, writing (which is nothing but an exercise in empathy), and anything else that requires empathy (I would hope that means every part of our lives). I believe everyone deserves a fair chance at a contented and free life, so it would be my goal to show how empathy can help everyone.

There are a lot of sayings that pertain to empathy: Walk a mile in a man’s shoes, Do unto others . . ., Let those without sin cast . . ., etc. It seems though that most people don’t really practice this feeling but want others to feel empathy for themselves. Empathy, much like respect, is earned. If you want it, you must give it. Because empathy will be my overall goal, some readers may be offended by some of the comments I make on a subject because I will be examining an aspect of a issue they don’t agree with. But that is part of empathy, going into the minds of people with whom you disagree. One must consider what the other side is thinking and feeling; otherwise, compromise is impossible.

Empathy is also about being informed. What does this mean? Well, it means reading, but reading smart. Most people when reading an article or book do not analyze the work to see if it is not influenced by bias, including the use of flawed arguments and fallacies, if it feeds into their own views. Being a skeptic (in any instance) is good for a person because then a person is not tricked. Some people believe that only one side of an argument is flawed or that only one side is trying to trick them, but when using critical thinking abilities, one can see that often both sides are trying to sell something. Thinking this way also helps a person see that there are more than two choices in any issue. Life is almost always more complex than heads or tails.

For an example, several years ago when I was in high school, my English class was reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. One day the teacher asked us a very unfair question: Would you help Jim escape or turn him into the authorities? Where’s my third option where I don’t help him but don’t turn him in? Some readers may gasp at this compromise (“How could you not help Jim?”), but my response to that is “I’m a kid (at the time) and the punishment for helping an escaped slave is death by hanging.” Also, the question is unfair because what average 21st century high school student is going to say “Oh, I’d turn him in”? Now the question is utterly pointless. But even thinking as a 19th century child, I can’t say for sure what any person’s reaction would be, because we are not 19th century children.

The point, however, is that even thinking you were yourself in the 19th century and had this decision to make, you have more than two options in every case. Some may argue that sometimes there are rock-and-a-hard-place decisions to make, but more than anything it is a person’s attitude behind their actions that allows for shades of decision. The reasoning behind our actions, when voiced, is (possibly) as important as our actions themselves. I have never seen a truly black and white issue. Life is too complicated for that, so instead of going “This or That” in this blog, I will be saying “Option A, Option B, Option C, Option D, . . .”. Hopefully, this will allow readers to see beyond the traditional way of thinking and create a less diametrically opposed reality for them.

Fingers crossed!

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Posted by on June 29, 2012 in Empathy

 

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