by Rod Smith

Empathy is a lot easier to define than impart. 

“Getting to” empathy is not easy. 

Also, Empathy has two very close siblings: Listening and Challenge. 

The three travel together as a package deal. 

It would be a “therapy joke” to suggest they are codependent but, while they are distinct, they function together, much like fingers on the same hand. 

Empathy is not something a person can use when needed like a spatula. 

Like listening, it’s first a skill, then, a life-style. It’s not a trick or formula, a way to get what you want. Using any interpersonal skill to get what YOU want is called manipulation or domination or intimidation, siblings from a whole other family.

Empathy is the beautiful, artful consequence that grows within a person who has sought to understand him or herself and his or her struggles, failures, successes, and therefore finds it easier to enter the experience of another, than one who has not. 

Self-knowledge, self-acceptance, are the keys that release or withhold you and me from empathy. 

No matter how extensively trained or confident, you and I cannot enter the world of another at greater depth than we have dared to enter your own. I’ve met unschooled “losers” with more empathy than trained professionals. I’m sure you have too.

Empathy and sibling-Listening, are somewhat (not completely) useless, without the third sibling: Challenge. I will try to say more about that in a few days.    

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