Empathy: our actions affect other people

Can you make someone else smile, feel good, sad, angry, frustrated?  Most of us know that we have that power just by what we say or do.  In fact it is by our choice of words or actions that others many time are affected and can have very strong emotional reactions.

One action like a smile or hug may make someone happy, another action like leaving someone out may make them sad.  Now it is not always possible to make others happy with our actions, nor should we, but we should be aware of and in fact we may want to predict the affect on others prior to taking a certain course of action or making certain statements.

There are some goals or actions that we can set for ourselves though that help both ourselves and others. What if we chose to help out a charity group with some of our time or to tutor a child who needed to improve in their reading.  If we are a young person, what if we helped our brother or sister with some of their work or read to a senior citizen.  All of these things demonstrate empathy and will no doubt make others happy.

Here is one more question on this subject though.  What is it that gets in the way of our seeing how our choices or behavior affects other people?  I think back to the time when I was a teenager and I do not think that I thought very much about how my actions would affect those closest to me.  Some of my actions brought pain and worry to my mother.  Was I that self – centered that how she felt just was not that important to me? 

When I look around and I see the hurt of some young people and their parents today. It goes both ways.  Some parents are so busy with their “lives” that their children are feeling very hurt and are affected by the lack of closeness.  One young man (17 years old) said to his pastor one day, “All I want is for my mom and dad to stop fighting about money and just spend some time at home with me.”  He said this just after his parents gave him a brand new BMW to ride around in. 

It is the hardest thing in the world to know how another person is feeling.  So the question is how can we adjust?  How can we do this first and foremost with our own family and then with others.  This is just a thought but I believe it takes deep listening and time.  As we start this year off, I for one plan on making empathy a bigger role in the decisions and choices I make.  That is one way to make a difference in the world that we live in.