Is empathy a relic of the past?


Empathy is the fuel that can effect change, I was reminded of this fact during my visit to the King Center last week. Dr. King utilized empathy half a century ago and changed the world in the process.


Actually, it stared me in the face and filled me with a sinking realization that it is missing in action, even more galling is the absence of its cousin, sympathy.


To take a partial quote from Gone with the Wind “Frankly, people just don’t give a damn” and if I were to throw in a flying #@$% that wouldn’t be far from the truth.

We are at a critical juncture, we are losing our humanity and the silence is deafening.

em·pa·thy [em-puh-thee]

1.  The intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.

2. The imaginative ascribing to an object, as a natural object or work of art, feelings or attitudes present in oneself: By means of empathy, a great painting becomes a mirror of the self.

sym·pa·thy [sim-puh-thee]

1. Harmony of or agreement in feeling, as between persons or on the part of one person with respect to another.

2. The harmony of feeling naturally existing between persons of like tastes or opinion or of congenial dispositions.

3. The fact or power of sharing the feelings of another, especially in sorrow or trouble; fellow feeling, compassion, or commiseration.

I thought it would be important to include the definitions for empathy and sympathy in this missive, because I think it is essential that there is an understanding of core elements of humanity that seem to be in dangerously short supply nowadays.

Take your pick from the news headlines du jour for an example of the aforementioned.

Words are a force to be reckoned with… We don’t understand or respect the power that we wield via our tongues.

Accordingly many people are content with opening their mouths without a second thought about the desolation that it could cause. However, it is far worse when words are backed up via the medium of policy.

Sadly, there is a twisted, albeit false sense of superiority that we garner from thinking that we have it all figured out.

A couple of observations come to mind:

It is so much easier to dismiss it as “It is their problem, not mine.”

“Not having to know is not an excuse for not knowing”.

“It takes two to Tango and one to Cha-Cha.”

If human beings have an innate need to feel valued and to be respected. Why do we struggle with the application of something that should be, universally embraced?

Why demand empathy in relation to some concerns, while deeming others unworthy when they fall outside the confines of our preferred labels?

Is it greed, evil, complacency or just good old-fashioned ignorance?


The elements of empathy and sympathy can’t be employed while we hide behind labels… Maybe the time for these emotional relics has past, perhaps we’ve evolved.

To what? Begs the question.

Maybe we aren’t human anymore, but if this evolution where the mere thought of empathy merits a sneer? If so, I need to find another planet to call home.


  1. bernasvibe says:

    Anyone who thinks they’ve got it all figured out; hasn’t lived enough life yet to learn its lessons..At any age(even at 51 years young…) the more I learn; the more I find I’ve got to learn..And have a hunger to learn! Especially about interpersonal relationships..I don’t compare how I feel or empathize with the general masses..Certainly not against the ugly picture that the media would have people think is how things are now. Or that the new normal is each man/woman for his or herself..Or that material objects really matter when sizing a person or situation up. They don’t..Even rich folks get depressed(that list is too long to even list…) I’m fortunate to have surrounded myself with people who are compassionate..Give, give, give of ourselves and what we have is what I feel is part of the reason we exist. To not feel empathy is a clear cut symptom is maladjustment. I will take a sneer any day over selling out my soul to darkness..This piece brought many thoughts to mind..Just thought I’d share some of them..Good job!


    1. shunpwrites says:

      Bernasvibe I truly appreciate your literary patronage. Sadly, people who are wise and humble enough to know that they don’t have it all figured out don’t echo as loud as those who do.

      I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with your diagnosis of maladjustment, but I fear we are at the point of no return. Hopefully I’m wrong.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. bernasvibe says:

        Quick questions for confirmation..When you say we’re at the point of no return..Are you referring to society as a whole? IF so do you think there is something folks like us can do to turn things about? Is your conclusion arising from things you’ve personally experienced or things you’ve read/seen on social media/boob tube, etc..

        Liked by 1 person

      2. shunpwrites says:

        I apologize for the delay Bernasvibe. My conclusion is drawn from things that I have experiences via social media and in conventional interactions. But, I am hopeful that I am wrong. The only thing that folks like us can do is to be contagious and louder than the ignorant.


      3. bernasvibe says:

        Ooo @be contagious and louder than the ignorant! I’m going to use that phrase…


  2. shunpwrites says:

    Be my guest Berna, this is the only way we can win!


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