The Gift of Empathy

 In schools, we teach children to read, but if we don’t teach them to relate to others, they will be lost in life—lost in their relationships, they will not have success in their jobs, and we will not have peace in the world. – Mary Gordon.

This statement hit home as it describes my life so well.

empathy, compassion

I’m fairly intelligent and have a relatively easy time learning new things that require mental skills, but have not done as well with relationships in my life. Once I discovered personal growth, I understood that this is OK and part of my path. I also know that life is much easier if one has learned about and received love, empathy and good emotional skills.

This is becoming common knowledge due to books like Emotional Intelligence. More schools, teachers, leaders and parents are becoming aware of the tremendous power of emotions to affect our life. They mustn’t be ignored.

Gratefully, I’ve had friends who were good models of loving and accepting behavior.

In fact, I believe one of the best gifts that we can give another is the gift of pure presence and acceptance. Too often we listen with an ear for fixing, changing or debating. What a beautiful gift to be simply heard and accepted. This could be called the healing power of empathy. Understanding another without the need to change them.

Although we can heal, learn and develop emotional skills at any time, it has been shown in research that our emotional set point is locked in at an early age due to genetics and environment. It takes hard work to overcome an emotional deficit from childhood. I can attest to that truth that early deficits often lead to problems in later life and pass to the next generation.

I applaud Mary Gordon and her renowned program called Roots of Empathy. She has pioneered a creative program that teaches children emotional skills by bringing babies and parents into classrooms. There are numerous visits over the school year with feedback from trained Roots of Empathy teachers to help the children understand their feelings, bond, develop confidence, and learn about relationships. They learn empathy by seeing and understanding the feelings of the parents and children who visit their classrooms. They gain an experiential understanding of emotional skills.

The program has demonstrated significant gains in students social and emotional skills, even years after participating in the program. The children show more prosocial behavior, kindness, empathy as well as a decline in aggressive, bullying and negative behavior. Additional studies at the University of Washington are underway to track their brain development, behavior and skills over longer periods of time.

Thankfully the Roots of Empathy program is spreading beyond Canada to Germany, UK, Ireland, New Zealand and finally the US. The Clinton Foundation has recognized Roots of Empathy as one of the best empirical based programs to help increase social skills and decrease aggressive behavior in children.

The beauty of the program to me is the compounding effect with these children, their friends, families and future families. This is how we break the cycles of neglect and abuse that tend to repeat generation after generation.

Give the gift of understanding and empathy to your family, friends and coworkers. The world will be a better place thanks to you and caring people like Mary Gordon.

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6 thoughts on “The Gift of Empathy

  1. As usual I loved reading your article but I must admit that I need to read this particular one at least 3 times if not more; very meaningful and very important information/knowledge.
    I hope to see something about how to re-learn or get rid of habit like “talking too much” and/or not being able to handle when anybody (specially men) says something which makes me feel that I was disrespected in addition to my habit of talking to much.
    I surely will share this one with my family. Thank you.

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    • Thanks Georgina, I appreciate your feedback. To create a new habit generally takes at least 21 days of repetition, a clear goal/ new habit, and commitment to do it until it becomes a new habit. If someone is disrespecting you, I suggest you ask them to stop, explain why what they said doesn’t feel good or leave the conversation. Remember you are lovable and worthy of respect, and the most important person to give that to is YOU! 🙂

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  2. I liked it when you said that “I discovered that this is OK and part of my path” — such an important realization to have, I think. It’s in keeping with the understanding of personal growth I’ve come to in my own life, which is that this journey is really about understanding that this is the person I am and that there’s no way or need to change that.

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    • Hi Chris, Yes to deeply understand and accept ourself and others is a big deal. I’m delighted that you have that self acceptance. Some days I’m still challenged to feel OK even though I mentally understand it.
      thanks for visiting:)

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  3. Love, love, love: “the gift of pure presence and acceptance.” Ours can feel like such a disconnected world, particularly when you throw in “advancements” (I place that in quotations because I beg to differ more often than not!) such as, cell phones/televisions/miscellaneous gadgets of distraction…people can frequently “appear” to be “somewhere else.” I think you absolutely nailed the key to successful/fulfilling relationships…To possess that open/non-judgmental ear and truly LISTEN can and will improve every life we touch. Thanks Brad!

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    • Sorry, what did you say? 🙂 ( as I type, listen to music, agitate on my day, and I haven’t even brought out the phone yet! ). I totally agree with you about the distractions of modern life being a constant challenge/ opportunity to be present.
      To more listening, acceptance and presence. Thanks Shauna 🙂

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