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Empathy: The Pros and Cons

Empathy: The Pros and Cons

Leigh Alexander's picture

I'm currently dating someone against the approval of most of my family.  We've been together for a long time, but it's been on and off, and because of that, my brother and my friends have stopped supporting our relationship.  In this case, their lack of empathy makes an already confusing situation much more difficult for me.  Most of them never were in a turbulent high school realtionship so they and view our ups and downs as just more tallies against the likelihood of our relationship ending well.  They see how I've been hurt a few times, and how the two of us are different people, but they don't hear us talking things out into the middle of the night, putting peices back in place and growing back together.

My mom understands though.  Rather than just being symapthetic towards my situtation, or being steadfastly against it, she remembers what it was like to be in a rocky high school relationship that moved to be a distant college relationship, and she rememebers how tough it was.  My friends and family who haven't experienced this all just say to "let go" and though that might be the best thing for me to do, it's not as easy as my friends make it out to be.

Call Me Blah writes that she thinks "empathy is something that might go a little deeper" than "sympathy or compassion or sensitivity" and is more of a "shared connection, like a true shared feeling of whatever it is the person might be empathetic towards," and I agree.  My mother is empathetic towards my situation because she's felt the ups and downs of it herself and understands how difficult and wonderful it can be.  Without having that connection between us, would be easy for her to view the situation objectively and believe the choice to let go or keep going is simple.  In this way, empathy has provided me with a solid ally, and someone besides my partner who I can feel comfortable talking about my relationship to, but, just as empathy bonded my mother and I closer because of our shared experience, a comparitive lack of empathy has created distance between some of my friends and me; their disapproval leads me to feel awkward speaking to them about my personal experiences, whether they are good or bad.  In my opinion, the more empathy we have for each other, the better.