Sunday’s Question

Yesterday my post mentioned about a school teaching empathy and compassion, it then went on to talk about the school doing away with recognition of achievements as a way to not make the ones who didn’t win anything feel bad.

As always I enjoyed the comments that followed the post.  In one of the comments, a reader brought up about being predisposed to empathy. I had thought of that before and figured it would be a good question to ask my wonderful readers. Are some people more naturally inclined to be compassionate and empathetic?

Is it something we are born with?

I think of children I have known when working in the daycare and there definitely were those who were more quick to come to the aid of a classmate if they saw them hurt. Those who grew sad, when their classmate was sad, and others who just walked away.

I remember one little girl who showed such a caring heart. I literally had to stop reading in the middle of one story because the poor girl had tears just running down her cheeks!

It was a story about a Mama Duck with 5 baby ducks and the one duck wandered away. The little girl’s bottom lip trembled, crying over the lost ducky.

This little girl was only 2 and 1/2 years old! I would say that is an example of being born with a compassionate spirit!

You often read stories of where children have wanted to donate their money in their piggy bank to a good cause. Children that found ways to raise money for a cause that they cared about and these are young children I am talking about. Yes, you can show children how to be compassionate and have empathy but I think a lot of it naturally comes from their heart.

What do you think? Is it just like each of us being gifted in different areas of studies and some of us being music oriented, while others are very good at sports? Are there those who are more naturally gifted with a compassionate spirit?

We all can show kindness, but do you know some people that seem to have an extra big heart?



26 thoughts on “Sunday’s Question

  1. I would suggest that compassion is a learned trait, most likely role modelled by parents. If your parents were giving, non-judgmental, sensitive to others etc. etc., then there is a good chance that you will naturally display similar characteristics. Empathy is totally different (as distinct from sympathy).

    Sympathy is generally defined as “feeling FOR somebody” (although you may not have experienced their situation). i.e. you can offer sympathy to a friend who has lost a loved one, even though you have not experienced such a loss yourself.

    Empathy is generally defined as “feeling WITH somebody” (you have experienced their situation and can totally understand what they are going through).

    It is therefore my understanding that whereas “sympathy” could well be a learned trait, “empathy” can only come from experience.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Well I hate to throw in a monkey wrench into the mix, but yes we are all born with empathy and compassion. Why? Because we are made in the image of God! Now what God has placed in us can be affected by our selfishness, by our heredity, our environments we grew up in etc. And our conscience can be shared by a negative life lived everyday…….but we are made in His image. And He is the ultimate compassion and empathy. God is love.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Good question!
    And one time – think it was NPR
    But I heard about research that physiologically did things to make people more empathetic and some folks were “too” involved and cried and had too much choices emotional releases
    And the research literature is abundant with correlations between high empathy and specific Brain function – so we know parts of the brain igniting are connected to social responses –
    Further – there is a personality connection and when you mention the 2 year old being all moved like that – awe ❤️
    And of course there is nature and nurture interplay so what is reinforced at home and at s school can shape the behaviors

    Have you heard of emotional intelligence (EQ) – it is this five domain theory about how humans can grow in key areas to be more in tune with self and others and to thrive more-
    One of the domains is empathy! Another is self regulation and well the reason EQ is so popular (and has been since early 2000s) is because the five areas can be improved upon! Woo hoo
    We can develop empathy – or help some of the tender ones pull back so they don’t over engage certain brain areas and fall apart- ha!
    In closing
    – I think empathy can be taught!
    And it might start with some neutral Altruism – and it starts with helping people see and really become aware of someone else’s experience
    Oh one last thing (sorry – but good topic here!)
    I know two folks that had high narcissistic personality disorders – rare to know one let alone two!
    And lack of empathy is a huge characteristic they have! What is worse – is they have pain and anger so they actually can inflict pain and feel a sense of justice – so when someone might have empathy and swell with tears to see someone hurt – someone with high narcissism would feel a sense of justice to see the other in pain.
    Not empathy – but a sense of dignified justice – so weird!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I believe empathy can be taught. After all, sometimes it’s taught in prisons, and has been shown to reduce recidivism.

    But I also believe some people are naturally better at it than others. You, for instance, Carolyn, seem to have a natural inclination for empathy and compassion, in my opinion. I sense it in what you post about, and how you express yourself.

    I don’t have that natural inclination. I’m kind of inclined to be mean, and have to guard against it. But this natural inclination came in very handy when I went to war against postal managers, to protect the letter carriers they were oppressing. But I sense you, on the other hand, would have been a pushover as a union steward. And perhaps being a pushover is something you must guard against.

    So we all have to do what we can, with the strengths and weaknesses we’re born with.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Awh! Thanks Tippy for your nice words. See, you can be nice ….. sometimes. 🙂
      You are right I do tend to be more of a pushover BUT I have grown better at not being one as easily. It really all depends on the situation and who I am dealing with!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. There’s more than one type of empathy ~ cognitive, emotional, compassionate, somatic, and spiritual. This page is a good primer on the difference:

    In this post, you seem to be focused on compassionate empathy:

    As a general rule, people who want or need your empathy don’t just need you to understand (cognitive empathy), and they certainly don’t need you just to feel their pain or, worse, to burst into tears alongside them (emotional empathy). Instead, they need you to understand and sympathise with what they are going through and, crucially, either take, or help them to take, action to resolve the problem, which is compassionate empathy.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Carolyn ~ This is an interesting topic. I tried to comment last night with a link to an article about different kinds of empathy. The comment disappeared twice. It might be being held for moderation because of the link or maybe it’s in the SPAM folder.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s like the whole nature/nurture question that intrigues me. Are some just engineered more towards it? My guess is yes, some people are just built this way, but I think empathy can be shown. But natural compassion is a gift.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I believe there’s a gentic element, environmental, and socially learned component. I definitely feel from my experiences as a very sensitive, compassionate, and empathetic child growing up in a big family…I seemed to inherit these traits from my mom I believe…not saying my siblings don’t possess these attributes to some degree, but some things are innately built into our unique personalities and gentic DNA.

    Liked by 1 person

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