Recently I started putting together a presentation that I will be giving to schools about the bullying issue. The overall theme of the presentation is empathy.
I hadn’t looked up the definition of empathy in a while, so I went to Websters. Their definition says:
The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.
As I read this definition a few times, I realized how truly powerful these words are. I was particularly interested in the part that said “without having the feelings, thoughts and experience fully communicated”. In thinking about what that means, it would really require us to make a sacrifice to be empathetic
…and I am OK with that. What I mean is that it works both ways, doesn’t it. For example, while watching the news and watching a particularly bad story about murder or some terrible crime, I’ll sit and say I can’t understand how someone could do that. At the same token, I shouldn’t understand how someone can do that. If I can, then that crime would make sense to me and it shouldn’t. In much the same way, people may struggle with empathy, because if you don’t have the ability to understand why someone can hurt so badly from bullying, then you don’t think that way.
When I read that children should toughen up and suck it up about bullying. When I read that kids will be kids and it’s only a youth problem. When I read that it’s OK for kids to punch back when bullied and get into fights. When I read that we can only work out our differences with bullies through aggression and to build a thicker skin. When I read all these things, I feel that I am reading ideas from those without the empathy to understand the victim in a bullying situation.
Teaching those that bully to be more empathetic to victims and care about others feelings. Teaching a bully to become a better person. Now that, to me is teaching empathy.