Faces on Faith: Empathy, a lost art?
In a recent issue of the Christian Science Monitor, Editor Mark Sappenfield draws our attention to the subject of “empathy” when he asks: “Does empathy have to be taught?”
In Denmark, students are taught to care for one another at a very young age. Educators uniquely worry that rapid technological change is breeding narcissism and physically cutting people off from one another. Bullying, teen suicide and school shootings have generated new thinking about educators’ responsibility for the emotional health of students. Social and emotional learning (SEL), is a basic part of the curriculum in Denmark. The curriculum aims to help students navigate negative emotions, empathize with peers, foster more resilience and stay calm and focused.
Around the world the problem of empathy is gaining attention. When the Mayor of San Juan, Carmen Cruz, pleaded for help after Hurricane Maria devastated her city, the president’s first response was sarcasm and thinly veiled contempt. We have to wonder how a democracy can survive, if leaders can’t put themselves in another’s shoes.
When I was an Adjunct Professor at FGCU supervising student teachers at Cape Coral Elementary School, the week the school opened, large banners with the word KINDNESS were everywhere. And I noticed that each month a new quality of good citizenship was featured, encouraged, and taught.
In the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, we saw countless examples of incredible generosity, kindness, and support expressed by people all over the world, but it was love that gave action to empathy.
The founder of the Christian Science Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy, once challenged her readers with these words: “A little more grace, a motive made pure, a few truths tenderly told, a character subdued, a life consecrated, would restore the right action of body and soul in accord with God.” May we all take up the challenge.
-June Sieber Sanibel Christian Science Church