Tag: Empathy

G-d, Interrupted


Over a lifetime, I’ve met lots of people who wonder why G-d “lets us suffer.” Or why G-d lets perfectly innocent people, especially children, die from catastrophic illnesses. Or why G-d lets bad things happen to good people.

I think these people are asking the wrong questions, and they are looking for help to come from the wrong source. I’ve also heard the comment that G-d doesn’t give us more than we can handle, and I think this belief doesn’t frame people’s struggles in a way that helps and empowers them, or strengthens their relationship with G-d.

I was inspired to think over these kinds of issues in reading a piece this weekend written by the late Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, where he discusses how Joseph was able to reconcile with his brothers, where instead he could have felt bitter and rejected by how they had treated him. Rabbi Sacks suggests that a factor for Joseph might have been his reframing his situation, realizing that G-d had a role that He wanted Joseph to play. I would also add from my own perspective that although many things happened to Joseph that he couldn’t control, he also had free will to make many constructive choices, which is the very special gift that we are all blessed with.

Misplaced Rage


The air is filled with outrage, hostility and frustration for most Americans right now. Inflation is devastating family budgets. Pregnant women are dying in Ukraine. Russian soldiers don’t even know why they are fighting this war. Joe Biden blames Russia for just about everything. And now someone has tossed the threat of nuclear war into the mix.

And all we can do is watch the horror show.

Ayaan speaks with Megan Phelps-Roper about leaving the Westboro Baptist Church. They discuss how we can bridge the divide and have empathetic conversations across ideological lines.

Megan Phelps-Roper was raised in the Westboro Baptist Church, the Topeka, Kansas church known internationally for its daily public protests against members of the LGBTQ community, Jews, other Christians, the military, and countless others. As a child, teenager and early 20-something, she participated in the picketing almost daily and spearheaded the use of social media in the church.

Loving Pain as Given: A Review of Heroes, a Dark Twist on the Grateful Acre


For B, and other youth whose grateful acres host, if not prairies, at least patchy meadows. And for Gary McVey.

It’s been a year since Will Arbery’s play, Heroes of the Fourth Turning, took the conservative Catholic blogosphere – or rather, that part able to see the play or a private script – by storm. Now the script is available to the public. I ordered my copy here. If you can afford to, read it. Theaters remain closed, but the theater of imagination richly rewards reading a play. Reading reveals motifs easy to miss when a play just happens to you in performance and you can’t revisit it. This review addresses unspoken pressures, like the prosperity gospel (which may not influence orthodox Christians’ theology, but can influence their social expectations), behind what conservatives speculate is Heroes’ demonic finale, the “We” who may, or may not be, Legion.

On Empathy


If I were a drinking man, I’d play a drinking game: Open a dating app, the comments section of a Washington Post article, a feminist blog, or any other place where people of a left-wing persuasion congregate, and take a shot every time someone writes a paean to empathy.

Whatever your neighbor’s teenage daughter may say, empathy is not a virtue. Empathy is a useful and morally neutral psychological phenomenon, one which might underlie certain virtues, but one which is not itself sufficient as the basis for any coherent ethical system.* The world would not ipso facto become a better place if “everyone had more empathy.” On the contrary, it might degenerate into some version of what we see now: quivering masses of emotional gelatin demanding therapeutic self-affirmation in the form of safe spaces and coloring books; a people paralyzed in unending anguish merely because somewhere, someone is suffering. As a moral principle, empathy is self-defeating. Too often, appealing to the “capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference” is akin to saying, “Every action or belief is legitimate from the point of view of the person who experiences it, and therefore every action or belief is legitimate.” Empathy easily descends into excuse-making. (Take the canonical example of an abused girlfriend: Is she really better off for “showing empathy” to her abuser?) Once empathy is removed from the psychological realm and introduced to the ethical one, it negates the very purpose of ethics, which is to establish a series of principles by which actions can be judged.

Member Post


I suppose my thinking along these lines started a couple of weeks ago, while perusing my social media like a chump. I’ve grown numb to political postings. Most of the angry ones in my feed are hard core Leftists who can’t stand that somehow things haven’t been working out as planned. Such is the nature […]

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It’s My Turn!


At the gym most mornings, I come upon the usual suspects: the weightlifters who smile and wave; the cute blond woman whose ponytail bobs as she hustles on the treadmill; the lean guy with the mustache who has a smile for everyone; and many others who smile and wave or share a few words. It’s a friendly environment where some people spend a few hours, much of it in conversation, sports talk or complaints about the upkeep of our development. Seeing those folks makes exercising a little more than tolerable for me.

Lately, I made a promise to myself to work through my resistance to asking people to let me work in on the machines. For those of you who don’t go to the gym, “working in” is sharing a machine with someone who has taken a break from a series of sets, and takes turns with you. It’s a gym rule that people relinquish the machine to whoever is waiting if they are between sets. Some people, unfortunately, simply refuse, even when you cite the rule. Or they say, “Oh, I only have two more sets,” which are completed with a long rest in between. Keep in mind that those who work in should be courteous enough not to do a set of 100 repetitions before he or she gives back the machine.

Don’t Walk a Mile in My Shoes


What we sometimes say, when we’re trying to feel empathy — or, more often, trying to get someone else to feel it, is “Hey, when you’ve walked a mile in his (or her, or their) shoes….”

The theory is, if you can put yourself in someone else’s place you’ll have more empathy, more understanding, of their situation. Which makes sense, I guess.

Are Conservatives Empathy-Deficient?


shutterstock_193027043It’s no secret that the success of the liberal regime is founded on an illusory moral high ground: the successful framing of themselves as voice of the downtrodden, and the of Right as the party of “making the rich richer and the poor poorer.” It’s similarly obvious (to us, anyway) that liberal thought has done untold damage to all sectors of society, and that conservative positions will ultimately improve quality of life for everyone involved. This fiction persists in large part due to the Left’s disturbingly successful strategy of relying on appeals to emotion and compassion, protected by only the thinnest layer of pseudo-logic, to win support for misguided causes.

But the blame may not all lie on liberal shoulders. It’s telling that conservatives have not only failed to dispel this fiction, but don’t seem to be trying all that hard. Browsing the pages of Ricochet or The Federalist, one will find many sound analyses of social and political issues, but very little rhetoric aimed at providing hope, comfort, or understanding for those in the midst of life’s tribulations. There is little indication of empathy.

There could be various reasons for this. A surface explanation, exaggerated by the Left but still partially true, is the emphasis on personal responsibility. If you look at people’s problems as mostly their own fault, you’ll be less inclined to operate on their behalf or foster any emotion for their self-inflicted struggles. It also might have to do with a basic adverse reaction to popular liberalism. When overwhelmed by emotionally charged but empty discourse, the natural response is irritation followed by cold (but sound) rationality.

My Shameful Lack of Empathy


This post is about me. I am empathy-deficient. What should be a touching story leaves me feeling nothing but contempt: a United States Senator empathizing with a federal inmate serving two consecutive life sentences who wanted to father a child. Through this empathetic Senator’s efforts, the inmate has successfully impregnated his wife.

I do not feel empathy for a jailed criminal who thinks he is entitled to be a father. Conjugal visits are prohibited at the federal level, so I see no need to employ a workaround (artificial insemination) to circumvent a natural consequence of the rules, particularly for such a contemptuous character. The empathetic senator suffers no such pedant reasoning.

Empathy & A Defense of Saying “Dude, That Sucks”


Cinderella's glass slipper

In nursing school — at the both undergraduate and the graduate levels — we talk a lot about “therapeutic communication” as a way of dealing with patients who are angry or upset. It consists of listening and responding, not with peppy platitudes, but with things like “I know how upset you must feel,” “That must be very frustrating for you,” or “I can see that you’re sad about your recent diagnosis.” As with most buzzwords, I always responded to discussions of therapeutic communication by rolling my eyes. Another buzz word in healthcare is “empathy,” something I admittedly struggle with. On several occasions, I have been known to walk out of a patient’s room with a panicked look on my face after they started crying to me about how terrible, upset, or scared they feel. “I don’t do crying,” I have been wont to say. Recently, however, I’ve had a couple experiences that have changed my mind on the subject.

Mr. T was a middle-aged man in for antibiotic therapy after a joint had become infected in the wake of total joint replacement. He had been an active member of his church, and his wife and church family visited him often. After several weeks of IV antibiotics, physical, and occupational therapy, Mr. T failed to progress. One night when I walked into his room, he was on the verge of tears. After I told myself to be a good nurse and not ignore the tears, I asked what was going on.