Why do we lack empathy?

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our life means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand,” Henri J.M. Nouwen wrote in his book “Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life.” “The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” 

In the beautiful world we live in, there are beautiful people. Sometimes, I believe that we as humans need to be reminded of that. The recent coverage of events has divided humanity. The fear, sadness and even anger of individuals have created an “us versus them” mentality in many.

We live in a world where our peers say to cross to the other side of the street when people who look different than us approach. We are taught to lock our doors if we hear a crying baby outside, because it might be an audio recording and the moment you open your door you’ll be killed by a nameless, faceless threat. If you open the door to your country, the same thing will happen. The days of learning “love your neighbor as yourself” have been replaced with lessons of avoidance and sheltering yourself from human interaction by using a digital screen as a barrier.

Empathy is dying. We thank our lucky stars that it isn’t us suffering as we offer a prayer on Facebook and scroll on. We say, “That’s a shame,” and click share to “raise awareness,” believing our share will reach someone who can do something, when we know deep down we can do something ourselves– we just don’t want the inconvenience.

But that’s the magic of the digital age; we don’t have to do anything meaningful to feel like we have done a great service to the world. We can see a video of starving children in Africa and share it with the caption, “My heart breaks for these poor children! We need to do something.” And with that click of a button you immediately forget all about the starving children and move on to the next article. We live in a fast-paced era where attention shifts faster than a politician’s priorities. And this is killing our empathy.

What would happen if you stopped listening just to wait for your turn to respond? What would happen if you read this and didn’t think, “This hippie doesn’t know what she’s talking about! Americans in America come first! We don’t have to worry about anyone but our own!” This sentiment is dangerous and because of this, I will ask a few final questions.

What would happen if you listened so someone’s thoughts and opinions and didn’t immediately discredit them because their ideas contradict yours? Would it truly be so horrible if you thought about it and changed your views? Is your pride so much more important than knowledge that you wouldn’t choose empathy over that pride? These are the questions you should ask yourself every day.

I fear for my country if this constant division continues. Why did the country that is famously called The Melting Pot, become as divided as oil and vinegar? My purpose for writing this is to ask you to question your thinking and question your mindset. Today, why can’t we see each other for who we are? We are one nation, we are one people, we are a nation of immigrants.