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The importance of showing empathy

Discussion in 'Sobriety Tips and Inspiration' started by Damien Lee, Oct 12, 2015.

  1. Damien Lee

    Damien Lee Community Champion

    A matter that bothers me is how lacking in empathy many people out there are. Especially when it comes to substance abusers, they are often seen as the worst criminals. I recently came across a lady who didn't want to give some spare change to a homeless person because he would spend it on alcohol and cigarettes.

    While this may be understandable, and she's probably right - the homeless guy would most likely spend the money on those substances. This is no excuse not to help another person when you have the ability to do so. She could have simply popped into the nearest food outlet and bought him a snack.

    That homeless person is far from perfect but he does need to eat and sustain himself. It's unlikely that he will get his life back on track, therefore it's best to show a bit of empathy and help him out a little.
    bhu likes this.
  2. pwarbi

    pwarbi Community Champion

    These days it seems that more and more people are only looking out for themselves, and showing compassion and empathy with others is a quality that's fast become extinct.

    In this situation then the homeless person might very well go and buy a beer or some cigarettes but it's not for us to judge another person, and dictate what we want then to spend the money on. Your spare change isn't going to turn his life around, just as much as you giving it away won't be detrimental to yours, so if the homeless guy wants to go and get a coffee and buy some cigarettes, so be it.
  3. dyanmarie25

    dyanmarie25 Community Champion

    Well, instead of giving money to homeless people, I just give them food to eat just to make sure they are not going to use the money to buy substances and alcohol. I believe that's more ideal.

    Anyway, yes, I agree that most people nowadays tend to just ignore/neglect the situation of less fortunate ones. Sometimes, we also have to show empathy and compassion towards those people in need.
    deanokat likes this.
  4. deanokat

    deanokat Community Organizer Community Listener

    This is one of my favorite quotes ever, and I think it applies here:

    "The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen." ―Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
    Rainman, kassie1234 and L_B like this.
  5. L_B

    L_B Community Champion

    I have brought many homeless people a coffee or lunch. I hate to see anybody going hungry. In also donate and volunteer at the local food bank and soup kitchen. When you get to know some of these people and some of their stories you can understand why they do what they do. They are real people with real problems and they need help. They should not be looked down upon. I see it all the time though. People being rude and cruel to them. There is no need for that.
  6. kassie1234

    kassie1234 Community Champion

    This resonated with me a lot. I feel like having battled addiction myself it makes me a whole lot more empathetic than I ever was beforehand. I think it's made me truly listen to people - when perhaps I wasn't so great at doing that before, and it's meant that I look deeper than the surface.
    deanokat likes this.
  7. anorexorcist

    anorexorcist Community Champion

    Unfortunately there's a lot of people who lack of empathy out there, but we need to forget about this prejudices just for a little bit and starting to see them as what they are, human beings. Most of the time, people seemes to forget that they belong to the same race and sadly other people are being treated unjustly because they are seen as inferiors or criminals, and that's really sad.
  8. zaerine

    zaerine Community Champion

    I also think better to give foods than money. That way, you can be sure that the person will have something to eat instead of money being spent on something else. Giving money is also needed sometimes like for those elders who cannot work anymore or those with medical issues.
  9. Rainman

    Rainman Community Champion

    One [wrong] assumption most people make when they see a homeless person is this person got himself/herself in the straits they are in because they used drugs. While yes there are a few homeless people who end up on the streets because drugs ruined their lives, many of the end up homeless for lots of different reasons.

    Some cities are even making it illegal to help homeless people. Give a homeless person food and you'll be fined. I think people are learning to care less for those who are in need. And when we don't care, the problems which we are trying to solve get worse. There'll be more people selling drugs or committing crimes just so they can get a fix.
  10. Rosyrain

    Rosyrain Community Champion

    I think society as a whole lacks empathy these days. People are way to concerned with themselves, and if people do not fit in to the social norms that one person thinks is appropriate then they are shunned and looked down upon. Addicts need empathy more than just about anyone because it is a disease.
  11. doatk22

    doatk22 Community Champion

    I couldn't agree more. I've heard the same excuse for not wanting to help out the homeless. And while it may be true, it also may not be! It's still the right thing to do to help someone. And yes a whole lot of people are lacking empathy these days.
  12. serenity

    serenity Community Champion

    That attitude is quite common because most people are selfish and they only look out for themselves. I think that she should have helped him in other ways or at least have given him some coins. Even if the homeless guy did use the money for cigarettes, booze or drugs, at least the woman did what she can to be of help.
  13. Adrianna

    Adrianna Community Champion

    You are talking about empathy? What you are referring to is more like sympathy. Empathy, if you will, in the scenario you are speaking of would be more like putting yourself in that person's shoes and feel their situation. I prefer to say hello make a real connection to someone like this. Ask them what's going on and why are they in this situation. Something like this. Of course they want money but that will not solve any problems or really help them. What I give them is a friendly conversation and a way to get some shelter. Ask them where they sleep and give them direction of where to go. Just toss them money and walk away is easy, but to engage. Make an impact, this is empathy. The root of the problem is more important than any amount of money you could ever give someone. You are just enabling them to stay where they are.
  14. Vinaya

    Vinaya Community Champion

    For many people showing sympathy is very common emotions. However, only few people can actually be empathetic. Sympathy is good, but we need empathy more to help a person. If we want to help a person we need to understand him and enter into his problem.
  15. ReadmeByAmy

    ReadmeByAmy Community Champion

    Nowadays most people do not give too much importance to the feelings and actions of other people that surrounds them. Even though they saw homeless people who are in need of help they are not likely to show their empathy to them. Offering help to other people is a good act of empathy especially if you will be doing this without asking anything in return. All of us had no perfect life and maybe it just happened that you are more stable them in life. That is why we should never judge them because someday you will never know you might be like them who will be needing help from other people. Remember you are not the only one living in this world and you must treat other people as important as yourself.
  16. Coolkidhere

    Coolkidhere Community Champion

    Empathy and sympathy... Two different words, two different meanings. Expressing sympathy is simply offering your commiseration with the less fortunate person. On the other hand, empathy means putting yourself in that person's situation and understanding how he feels. Sympathy is very easy to offer, you can just say, "There's going to be a brighter day," or maybe you can offer to give some money to the person because you feel sorry for him. But empathy is hard to do, you need to set aside your judgments and feel whatever that emotion is that person feeling.

    I would add another emotion in this instance which is compassion. Now, after you have shown sympathy and felt empathy, you need to turn those feelings into something useful. Compassion is knowing that the other person is feeling a bit down and helping them. It can be as simple as cooking for a loved one or as difficult as getting to know a less fortunate person and providing them with assistance. That's compassion.

    Now with regards to the lady you mentioned, it seems like she's lacking all these qualities. She doesn't even have sympathy or fake sympathy at the very least. She doesn't have empathy because she was quick to judge the person's actions and situation. And lastly, she didn't even have compassion enough to help the person.

    I think it's what's wrong with the world... We're too consumed with judgements and stereotypes that we have forgotten to sympathise, empathise and have compassion for the people around us. It's a sad, sad truth.
    deanokat likes this.
  17. bhu

    bhu Active Contributor

    I have been that lady, but thankfully I now know about addiction and recovery from personal experience, as well as my friends'. When a man comes up to me while I'm getting gas with a sad story about why he needs money, I'm still skeptical, knowing how addicts of all stripes can weave a tale to feed their addiction. However, these days I'm more likely to suggest where he can get some assistance, in case his story's for real. Since the 2005 hurricane season, I'm a lot better informed than I was before about all the social services available in my area. Once while doing some office work, I answered a wrong number and ended up helping a married couple in recovery to move to my town and get services they needed. So very definitely, yes, we need to maintain empathy.
  18. Mara

    Mara Community Champion

    Well, I can't really blame the others for not being emphatic. It's either they're just looking out for themselves or it's very likely that they cannot understand what addicted people are going through because they've never been in their shoes. And that is why some people are quick to judge. They only see the outside appearance, but they do not know exactly how the other person is feeling, and the reasons why that person turned to drugs.
  19. xTinx

    xTinx Community Champion

    You are so on point. It's something I've noticed in today's world. There's a great empathy deficit everywhere. You think people are kind and generous just because they're giving money to charity but then you start to wonder if they're really sincere or just doing what's expected. In fact, I see people who keep a close bond with their family and friends but when they're out there on the streets, they throw their trash anywhere and barely glance at beggars on the pavement. You see the discrepancy and somehow it's not adding up.

    If you're going to be kind and caring then do so all the way. Don't be selective. Feel for everyone, for everything.
    Mara likes this.