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By Nikita Mor
The importance of intellectual and emotional empathy has been undervalued in our contemporary social and educational systems. Our children are conditioned to ignore their deep inner needs, and function on superficial sources of external validation. This conditioning extends into their adulthood, affecting their ability to function as conscious individuals that work for the betterment of society. If empathy is taught only to one child, it will be very hard for him or her to maintain personal boundaries. This is why it is so important for it be inculcated on a mass scale, and especially at a young age.
1. It inculcates gratefulness.
Empathy opens our eyes to global problems such as war, economic inequality, environmental degradation, children and women’s rights, such that we are able to feel grateful for what we have in our lives. Our children can learn to stop complaining about insignificant problems, and focus on developing compassion, resiliency, and a hunger for new experiences that will educate them beyond their immediate environment.
2. It teaches effective conflict resolution.
Children can learn effective ways to resolve conflicts through compassion. They can re-evaluate kindness as a strength rather than a weakness. They can seek to resolve conflicts through peaceful means working towards a common goal of compromise, rather than trying to win through aggressive, ego-driven and violent behavior.
3. It increases sensitivity.
Empathetic people are known to be sensitive. They pick up energetic and emotional shifts in their environment by honing their intuitive skills. This teaches them efficient adaptability to uncontrollable life circumstances, and releases them from the compulsions of a rigid mindset.
4. Promotes global citizenship.
Since empathy is about taking into consideration the needs of others as well as our own, it will help our children to view others unfettered from the divisive barriers of race, gender, religion and nationality. It will encourage them to treat everyone equally, and prevent superficial, separatist and hostile judgments of people based on their financial or social status.
5. Encourages personal growth.
Inculcating empathy in children, teaches them the importance of personal growth and self-actualization at a very young age. They learn to get in touch not only with the feelings of others, but also their own. This commitment to self-awareness and mindfulness encourages them to focus on constantly improving themselves as a habit.
6. Builds a sense of self worth.
As they learn to consider the needs, opinions and perspectives of others, they broaden their horizons beyond what they are taught at home by their parents, educational and religious institutions. They learn to think independently, and can build a strong inner sense of self worth that is not dependent on external sources of validation.
7. Fosters creativity.
Highly creative people are also highly empathetic. Understanding what drives and motivates people, and what makes them tick gives tremendous insights into the psychology and behavior of human nature. It encourages good leadership through creative thinking that stems from emotional intelligence combined with other skills and talents.
8. It supports healthy competition.
There is tremendous pressure on our kids to perform through unhealthy competition, constant comparison and destructive criticism. This leads to escapist behaviors and unhealthy coping mechanisms. If our children work towards goals that serve social betterment, love, purpose and communal harmony as opposed to only their personal self-interests, they will be inspired by each other’s successes rather than disappointed, jealous and angered.
9. It builds a strong sense of integrity.
Empathy builds the foundation for a strong system based on internal values such as compassion, courage and integrity. It educates them about the illusory and temporary nature of superficial characteristics such external attractiveness, body image, material success, consumerism, and the immediate gratification of selfish needs. It teaches them to reprioritize their own idea of what makes a successful person, a meaningful life, a stronger community, and a better world.
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