“You can’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.”
The person who first uttered this American saying is lost to history. The fact that it’s so well known is a good indication of the importance of empathy in living a meaningful life.
Any intelligent discussion on humanity will, at some point, deal with the importance of truly empathizing with others to understand them completely. Here are a few notable quotes on the subject:
“If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
– Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Thoughts: This scene from the beloved novel depicts a father imparting some thoughts to his young daughter on the advantages of employing empathy. As a concept, empathy is often discussed in the sense that being empathetic makes you more compassionate to others or is kinder. In a practical sense, employing empathy is also the greatest possible advantage in your ability to communicate with other people in every scenario.
“Whenever you are about to find fault with someone, ask yourself the following question: What fault of mine most nearly resembles the one I am about to criticize?”
– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations.
Thoughts: In learning to understand others, the reality is that most people act and react from ego center. In most conflicts, people act as mirrors for each other. The thing that most upsets us in another person is the thing we most detest in ourselves. Realizing this when we feel verbally or emotionally attacked helps us to process the other person’s words without taking in so much of the blame and negativity. At the same time, considering this before speaking can help to avoid conflict.
“I think we all have empathy. We may not have enough courage to display it.”
– Maya Angelou
Thoughts: Maya Angelou reminds us that empathy is not some intangible characteristic that some are born with and others are not. We all have the power to truly feel another person’s struggles, if we only take the time and thought to do so.