Expressing Emapthy

We always like to think we are empathetic towards others. But are we really? Do we respond to others by wanting to solve their problem? Or do we judge their actions and say to ourselves (or others) “I would not have done this! S/he should have done this.” Do we really listen to others and take note of what is said – and of what is left unsaid?

In the last few years since moving to another country and settling in a big city, I have noticed a lack of empathy. Not only towards myself and my family, but also towards others that are struggling in some way in their lives. People seem to go through the motions and say the “right” words. However, there is a lack of commitment and feeling behind their words. Instead, I have the impression that people want to move onto the next event or next part of the routine in their lives. There is no desire on the part of people to take the time to sit and listen while another expresses the confusion, the desire, the heartache that is being experienced.

A part of empathy is the lack of judgement, a lack of “you should have done this!” I think of the words Jesus expressed: “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1) and his extortion that we not judge others so that we can clearly see the actions of another. It is when one is non-judgemental of another that one is able to see and understand why an action was taken. It is when one is non-judgemental that one is able to listen and feel true empathy for the one speaking.

Surrounded by empathy, a person is able to work through the emotions of the experience. I know for myself that if I have an empathetic ear listening to my words, I am able to express my thoughts freely, without feeling guilt or any inhibitions. And it is often with this expression of my inner feelings of fear, or recounting of experience, that I am able to work out in my mind my own response. For me, empathy has come to be a stepping stone towards my own growth as a person.

Lending an empathetic ear has also helped me to grow as a person. Listening to someone without judgement has led as well to fostering stronger relationships, and has allowed me to continue to be the person I want to be. I feel that being empathetic of others is not a weakness; instead I believe it is a sign of strength - in who you are and in who you want to be. It is a sign too that you are not afraid to experience true emotional intimacy with others.

What has been your experience of empathy?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2012

(Join Kellie Elmore every Friday to free write a response to a quote, poem, image or thought that she has posted. Free write means you pay no attention to editing, your imagination runs free, and you stop only when you are trying too hard to complete a thought.)

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About Colline Kook-Chun

I am an educator, blogger, wife and mother. I enjoy reading, scrapbooking, crafting, photography, and spending time with my family.
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27 Responses to Expressing Emapthy

  1. jmgoyder says:

    Great post – empathy is something I seem to be living at the moment, so much in my husband’s shoes that I can’t find my own – hard call but so glad you raised this important question.

    • Colline says:

      Empathy is important, I feel, as it helps you to understand the reason for another person’s actions. I can understand that it is difficult to find the balance between feeling empathetic and following your own feelings. Hope you soon find your own shoes.

  2. great post Colline, it’s something we all want, but all to often don’t give.

  3. Wonderful post, Colline! You have done well in elaborating on one of the most important, yet amazingly absent, courtesies one person can offer another; an empathetic ear. Too often, we don’t take the time to listen. Very nicely said!

  4. scrapydo says:

    This is well said!I find listening to others good for myself also. I miss my real friends the last few years since I am away from them. They helped me a lot in the past by just being there and listen to how I feel myself without telling me what I should do. It is true everybody needs someone who can only listen with empathy .

    • Colline says:

      Thank you Scrapydo. I have found too that the lack of real friends does make it difficult to find someone that really listens to you. That is what makes friends of a lifetime so special – they know you inside and out and understand where you are coming from.

  5. thelifeofapolicehousewife says:


  6. True friends. Unconditional love. That comes with an empathetic ear. In conversation, people are thinking of what they are going to say next, which causes them not to really listen. I am trying hard ( and reading a lot about ) mindfulness and staying in the present. I think if more of us did that ( and I’m really trying ) we would all listen more attentively. Excellent post. I hear ya! :-)

    • Colline says:

      You are so right about the importance of being in the present – not only when we are listening to others but also when we are living moments of our lives.

  7. Empathy is the greatest gift one can give to another and it isn’t often given. I think many do not understand empathy well and it is an art.
    I recently attended a meeting where a group of people were to share their feelings from their heart only. I found myself asking questions to clarify what one member of the group was saying and was halted by the moderator who reminded me that interviewing others was not appropriate in this particular group. In this moment, I realized that clarifying questions may be upsetting to someone who is trying to share difficult-to-share feelings. I learned another aspect of empathy by being called out on a response that I may have used due to my own attempt to quell my own feelings of discomfort in the group. I found that I must strengthen my empathy skills and own my discomfort for another,s comfort to truly be empathic.

    • Colline says:

      At times, I think, the listener does need to ask questions in an attempt to understand the other’s emotions. However, the number of questions, as well as the tome of voice, would determine whether the speaker feels comfortable or not. As well, of course, how well the listener and speaker know one another.

  8. eof737 says:

    I hear you and what I have come to understand is that people do care but often have their own burdens that get in the way… While some folk let the world know of their struggles, others prefer to work it through or share it with only their closest friends/family. They might seem disinterested in what you are going through, but they usually are not; just swept up with their own stuff. One thing blogging has taught me is to let go of the Why. Why did/didn’t they do X… I just have to let it go and do the best I can with the time I have…

    • Colline says:

      Blogging, I think, has become another way in which to express your thoughts, experiences, emotions; and of connecting with those who have an interest in what you are expressing. Sometimes I think the act of expressing yourself, helps you to let go of some of your frustrations and and disappointments.

  9. adinparadise says:

    Great post. I believe that unless “we walk a mile” in someone else’s shoes, we don’t really know them, and therefore can’t judge their actions.There’s an award for you on my latest post, Colline. ;)

  10. You have a generous and giving heart. We all need to feel empathy. It’s a way for us to feel human with ability to relate to other person’s suffering. One day, who knows, we might need someone’s empathy when problems strikes. So, if today someone needs our help, we should try our best to give and ease someone’s pain. Have a beautiful weekend…

    • Colline says:

      I agree with you. And it has happened that when I have needed help and an ear ready to listen, I have received it. And I have felt grateful that someone took the time to listen to me without making any judgments.

  11. Wow. I think that often I don’t empathize enough and do find myself to quick to judge. I do think you are right though that we need to empathize more and truly care about what the other person is saying or experiencing rather than wanting to solve. This is definitely a post that will have me re-looking at the way I interact with others. Thank you.

    • Colline says:

      Sometimes I find that we are so busy with activities in our lives that our minds are always racing ahead to the next thing that we have to do. I think because of this we just want to solve the problems others are experiencing quickly so that we can move on – but in the interim we lose an essential part of our humanity.

  12. Iamrcc says:

    I think one of the hardest things to do is to listen. To really listen without adding any words or ideas that come from our own background or experiences. Most often people listen and then they translate. They translate what you say into what they think you mean. I have always been able to use my first name as an example of how people don’t listen. I usually have to repeat 3 times before the person listens and pronounces it correctly. It’s not that is’t complicated. It’s just that it begins like 2 names that people are very familiar so they hear the first part and assume.I love your post on empathy.

    Thanks for visiting and liking my Urban Weekly Photo Challenge submission.

    • Colline says:

      What you say is so true – people hear what they want to hear; or have been conditioned to hear. It does take practice, though, to become an active listener – even for things as simple as a name.

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