We Need to Help our President.

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Hearing this sentence spoken aloud made me laugh—probably more than it should have.

“We need to help our president. We really do. Because we should be showing the empathy he doesn’t have. I think he tries, but I think it’s lost somewhere between his hair and somewhere else. […] So come on man—show some empathy.” ~ José Andrés

And then those words began to sink in. Slowly.

I wasn’t laughing anymore.

Instead I flashed back to a conversation I’d had with my mom when I was in high school. Who knows why some conversations stick with you and some don’t, it’s a mystery. For some reason, this one has never left me.

We were in the car and she was driving.

I looked at her and I asked if she and my dad had intentionally raised my brothers and I to be empathetic.

At the time, I was a teenager teaching a room of three-year-olds Sunday school classes each week and I was getting an education myself by doing so. If you ask me—not that you have—passing the test of managing a room of 12 toddlers without any incidents of biting, screaming, or bloodletting should be required before one is allowed to fully adult.

But, back to the point: I was watching my classroom begin to awaken to the concept of empathy.

Empathy is defined as the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.

I know what the word means and I still had to read that three times.

Empathy is the concept of theoretically placing yourself in another’s life and understanding how they feel. Sympathy, while similar, is the sharing of another’s feelings in a logical, analytical sense.

My mom and I talked for the rest of that car ride about teaching empathy to young people. Over the years since this conversation, I’ve often circled back to it in my thoughts.

Empathy is a skill in life, just like any other. It should be taught and it should be honed, kept sharp. If we don’t use a muscle, it dies. If we forget to feel with others, these muscles will die as well.

Empathy is a gift. It transcends language, time, culture, and ethnicity. It opens doors and shatters glass ceilings. Empathy is the thing that keeps us connected to our human experience and to those around us.

Empathy is a form of communication that humankind cannot afford to lose. It’s far too valuable and rare a commodity to trade in for our 21st century fast-paced, instant gratification platitudes. We owe ourselves more than that.

Our president is lacking in the empathy department, to say it mildly. What’s worse is that he doesn’t even realize his loss. But, I have faith in the humanity of our citizens.

I don’t profess to know the answers. What I do know is that Mr. Andrés was speaking to me, to you, to each of us. He was begging us to exercise those muscles so they don’t atrophy and waste away.

His call to action is simple:

We have to care, hard.

We have to speak it. We have to show it. And we have to teach it. 

 

author: Molly Murphy

Image: M. B. M.

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Heidi Evans McArdle Sep 24, 2018 10:54pm

Wow, Molly Murphy. You probably didn't think that empathy would be controversial. It is helpful to include Trump in our intention to be empathetic. I happen to think Judge Kavanaugh is guilty of what he's been accused of, yet I hold some space for his immaturity, his fear.

Cristy Holden Sep 24, 2018 7:31pm

The person who is president has a very serious personality disorder. M.Scott Peck referred to Narcisism as "the Evil in our Culture". It can not be cured, and the price is paid by those around him subject to his distorted view of reality. The loss of our long experiment in democracy is eminent. There is no place for this person in our community --- people who perpeturate evil can not be tolerated. This man has created great harm to many --- especially children and families. He is lying currently to those who believe his lies --- what will happen to them when they wake to his manipulation? NO, this is not a place for my energy or empathy. RESIST, now and for as long as it takes.

Marilyn Harris Sep 23, 2018 11:35am

After being terrorized and lied to on a nearly-daily basis by the actions of the current occupant of the White House and his minions for the past 20 months, augmented by the incessantly hysterical reporting of the media, I think the majority of American citizens are shell-shocked and perhaps incapable of doing what you propose, Molly. Without a doubt, our president desperately NEEDS help. But first we have to feel safe, resilient and bountiful enough within ourselves that we will SURVIVE! We can't give from an empty basket!

Michael Mitchell Sep 22, 2018 11:26pm

I have empathy and try not to judge but evil self serving pathological narcissists do exist. They cause lots of harm and were probably not nurtured as children but they are still accountable for their actions. Light vs darkness is real. Good vs bad is real. This world is getting worse for a reason. Political corruption is a fact. Some people will never change and choose to not change. They enjoy hurting others. I am a professional therapist and I see it everyday. There is a future and a hope but it will not come from mankind.

Anne Watkis Sep 22, 2018 7:34pm

I am fed up of people criticising president trump. He told South Africa he was watching the situation after their president said he was going to take the white farmers farms. Soon after the SA president said he was rethinking his earlier statement. Well done Donald. Donald got North Korea to agree to disarmament and the north and south are now meeting! Well done Donald.

Rochester Johnson Sep 22, 2018 7:25pm

First of all, I HATE the title of this article and the way it starts. How dare anyone say we have to have empathy for Trump? If you are goign to do an article on empathy leave that piece of shit out of it. He is destroying the USA, causing hate to be acceptable, causing racism to be acceptable, causing lying and cheating and sexual harrassment to be acceptable. He cut Medicare, Medicaid, Meals on Wheels, funding for the arts, PBS, and so much more; the list is endless. Him and his crime family want to take away social security. I have never hated anyone so much and I am not alone. WE MUST VOTE DEMOCRAT TO SAVE AMERICA AND PERHAPS THE PLANET!

Julie Merlo Walker Sep 22, 2018 2:21pm

Talking about 'empathy', well, instead of being judgmental, you should have it for all, including the president. I find a sign that says 'Humanity Against Trump' offensive, and a sign of a big group of non empathetic people. Maybe he will help us, in a way that is not obvious. I've never seen people be more negative than this in my entire life, and it's sad, no matter what the situation, being negative is not helping...

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Molly Murphy

Molly Murphy believes in small acts of kindness, the ability of a cuppa to heal just about anything, black-and-white movies and handwritten letters. Molly hoards pens as any self-respecting writer should and she doesn’t share them. In a previous life, Molly was a plant-based personal chef. She has since hung up her apron and can be found playing with words at Elephant Journal.

For more, follow Molly at her website, on Instagram and Facebook.