«Let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbor» (Zechariah 8:17).
You have surely heard the definition of «empathy» as the ability to put oneself in the shoes or place of another. Webster’s New World Dictionary defines this quality as the “intellectual or emotional identification with another.” You can find more complete definitions on websites or in psychology books. It is a relatively new term, but one of the oldest concepts.
Perhaps we could say that Enoch was one of the first faithful ones to reveal empathy. He was in such harmony with God that God took him away. Or Shem and Japheth, who put themselves in the place of their father’s shame and, without looking at him, covered him when he was naked. Or Abram, who was sympathetic to Lot’s need at the time of dividing the lands and trusted in God’s promise. Or the man who escaped from the fight with the kings and told Abram what was going to happen. Or so many other stories.
I do not know how you feel you are understood by others or in what ways you show your empathy.
Some characteristics of empathetic people include the ability to recognize emotions, identify non-verbal language, listen carefully, express themselves politely and sensitively, and value tolerance, support, and respect, among other things. All these things improve communication and relationship.
Luc Steels, one of the greatest experts in artificial intelligence, said that we say very little with language and that, as humans, we interact and understand each other even without speaking. They are currently researching how to enable robots to predict or remember reactions and respond “empathetically” to certain situations.
It is mirror neurons that connect us with other people, that allow us to react in the same way to what we see happening. Empathy is not entirely due to them, but we can notice that there is something in our biology that causes this reaction. There is still a lot of research going on to understand fully how this quality occurs.
One way we can develop it in an easy, practical, and entertaining way is by choosing one of our favorite stories from the Bible and telling it as many times as necessary, so that we see it from the perspective of a different character each time.