Where is kindness? What happened to caring and empathy? How did it get flipped around and corrupted?
So many times people get disappointed when their friends drop a promise or flake out. And then those disappointed folk do the same things like forgetting to return a call, write back or they show up late themselves without an apology.
I don’t know anyone who would want a girlfriend, boyfriend or spouse to cheat in a relationship. Yet many husbands and wives have affairs, even the ones who were betrayed by a lover in their past.
If no one wants to be deceived by lies, why do so many people lie to others?
If people want “small government” (read: Don’t tell me what to do!) why are those same individuals so adamant about imposing their values and morals on everyone else?
Why is there so much hypocrisy?
A while ago I wrote about Live and Let Live. Let’s now talk about…
“Do Unto Others as You Would Have Them do unto You”– Attributed to, The World’s Wisdom
And rephrased again as…
- ”Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.” – Confucius
- ”Do not do to others what would anger you if done to you by others.” – Isocrates
- And if thine eyes be turned towards justice, choose thou for thy neighbor that which thou chooses for thyself.” — Bahá’u'lláh
- “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” – Undanavarga
- “Do to no one what you yourself dislike.” —Tobit
- “That which you want for yourself, seek for mankind.” — Muhammid
- “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” – Jesus of Nazareth
- “Love thy neighbor as yourself.” – The Lord
I didn’t make up the Golden Rule. It’s out there. Has been forever. Yet the majority of this planet’s population ignores the wisest advice ever given.
Well…maybe the Golden Rule is impractical and old fashion.
Maybe double standards are really okay.
Maybe, in our modern jungle, the END justifies the MEANS.
Maybe winning is the only thing that matters.
Maybe Me-First makes sense.
Or maybe it doesn’t!
Of course there are plenty of examples of positive COMMUNITY ACTION, of people working together for a common cause. But I think this happens when individuals feel threatened enough in the same way to unite for common protection and achieving a common goal.
And yes, there are charities, and Doctors Without Borders, and the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and paramedics, and fire fighter heroes, and urban missions and the Humane Society. Compassion actually IS scattered around us.
And yet…there’s still your boss who denies your existence when he brings new clients into your office and fails to make an introduction.
There’s that friend who, having entered your car,lights a cigarette as you mention you’re allergic to smoke.
There’s your sister who again forgot your birthday but insists that you remember her daughter’s graduation.
And there’s the people next door and their teenage son who just took up the drums and practices at 10pm.
It’s those little things…
And the big things…that make you wish The Golden Rule were still in play.
When it isn’t, Wall Street bankers gamble with your saving, lose it, and grab a bonus at the end of the year.
How do these people sleep at night?
Answer: Generally, okay.
Here’s why: They have no empathy for you.
You are not part of their world. Nor are you in the world of many elected officials, in the world of corporate CEO’s, or even close to the families living a block away.
Practically all of the planet is detached from you, feeling no shared destiny, no shared responsibility, no shared risk.
This is why: The Golden Rule was squashed and very little empathy is directing our decisions. Even when it is, we still buy Mac computers, cheap toys and New Balance shoes made in China under horrible factory conditions.
Do you drop that info from your mind? I do, until I write about it.
An article in ScienceDaily (May, 2010) states in its title: Empathy: College Students Don’t Have as Much as They Used To
And continues on with: “Many people see the current group of college students — sometimes called ‘Generation Me’ — as one of the most self-centered, narcissistic, competitive, confident and individualistic in recent history,” said (Sara) Konrath, (researcher at University of Michigan) who is also affiliated with the University of Rochester Department of Psychiatry.
“It’s not surprising that this growing emphasis on the self is accompanied by a corresponding devaluation of others,” (Edward) O’Brien said. (University of Michigan graduate student working with Konrath.)
If you go to this link, you can read why Konrath and O’Brien believe younger generations are losing the ability to empathize. Our physical contact and time with one another is diminishing. Also, our on-line, content-saturated, exposure-to-violence, social media society is distancing our physical presence from one another.
We now avert detailed conversations by no longer having to look our friends in the eyes when disagreeing. And sometimes we don’t connect at all, or limit a response to a six-word text.
Empathy can be ignored if you don’t see the result of your actions.
And this is sad because empathy, face to face, solves disputes and heals broken hearts.
But even in a perfect world not all of us have empathy. Lacking it can be biological.
It’s empathy that makes us communal; where your actions against that man feels like an action against yourself. This is how compromises are made and alliances are formed. This is how we keep families together.
Maia Szalavits writes in Time Magazine’s website – “Without empathy, we would have no cohesive society, no trust and no reason not to murder, cheat, steal or lie. At best, we would act only out of self-interest; at worst, we would be a collection of sociopaths.”
But for those of us who don’t naturally see the world from another’s point-of-view, can empathy be learned? Psychological studies suggest yes, empathy can be taught. But conversely, aggressive alienation can be acquired in childhood through parental neglect and traumatic experiences.
This condition begs the question: Is undeveloped empathy the reason why kids grow up to be bullies? In many cases, yes.
“You can enhance empathy by the way you treat children,” says Martin Hoffman, an emeritus professor of psychology at New York University and a pioneer of empathy research, “or you can kill it by providing a harsh punitive environment.”
So what do you think? Are we less caring today than twenty or thirty years ago? Are we more fearful, more alienated, more polarized politically and religiously?
Or has the media simply made us more aware of our faults without extolling our virtues?
Can we learn to be kind? Do we even need to be?
Is the Golden Rule worth following?
Is there less love and kindness? And if so, where do we find it?
I’ll tell you what I think. I think the world in general is a selfish uncaring place and probably always was. Yet I find islands of kindness and compassion everywhere. I live on those islands sheltered from much of the bad stuff, and you can be too by simply following the Golden Rule.
I know this sounds corny, but you attract what-you-are.
So my friends, be caring. Be loving. Try to understand. And those kinds of people will embrace your life.