What I want you to know. Which is everything.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Sympathy? More like Empathy!

Last night I was hanging lights at the Baytown Little Theatre when I got a call from my brother. I hadn't heard my cell ring because my music was playing, but I soon noticed that my brother had called and I called him back. A very urgent Jason told me he'd broken his leg. He needed me to call our grandmother, who was coming to pick up his kids, and give her directions to the hospital. As he began to describe to me in great detail exactly what happened and all of the ways that his leg was flopping around and completely useless to him at the current time I began getting slightly unnerved and asked him to just give the directions, because hearing the details was making me physically hurt, myself.

It got me thinking about a couple of things. First off, I thought about how glad I was that I didn't go into the medical field. I am so squeemish I become ill just thinking of the visual aid Jason used to describe how his injury happened. Hint: it involved straws.

The second thing that has been on my mind after this event is the idea of empathy. Empathy runs heavy in my family. Everyone who heard about Jason's injury and how it happened said the same thing. "That hurts just to hear it!" And it does. I went and saw Jason in his hospital gown and leg contraption, hooked up to IVs and eating hospital food, and the whole time I was there I had a pain in my own leg. That sounds a little extreme, but it was true.

Empathy is a wierd emotion. It's not even as much of an emotion as it is a talent or ability. Or curse, depending on how you look at it. Empathy, for some of my high school students, is synonomous with "sympathy," which is an understandable misconception. Sympathy is largely a result of empathy, although it's very possible to experience one without the other.

I think true empathy is actually an accurance of feeling what someone else is feeling, even if you have never experienced that. It's knowing how a friend feels at the loss of a loved one, despite having never lost a loved one your self. I've never broken my leg, but I certainly can imagine the pain. I suppose that is what empathy is: imagination. But, imagination shouldn't be taken lightly. I believe that imagination can be as fullfilling, hurtful, dangerous, or awesome as reality in many ways and should be treated with care, just as we are cautious with our reality. How often have we heard of people getting too caught up in lies or an imaginary life to the point that affects their real life?

So, empathy, while a good quality to have can also be a curse of sorts. I guess I'm happy to have the ability to feel for my family when they are hurting, just so that they know I care and that I am understanding. With that said, I'm not looking forward to childbirth.

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