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Empathy, Why Does It Matter?

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UFL chapter.

About a month ago, I went shopping with my mom, as per usual on my breaks from school. We were standing in the notorious mile-long line at Bath & Bodyworks, waiting to pay for a ridiculous amount of money in soaps and lotions. Then all of a sudden, a woman standing behind us calls my mom’s attention and says, “I don’t mean for this to sound strange, but I just wanted to tell you that you are such a beautiful woman.”

Now, we can all agree that a random person complimenting us in the middle of Bath & Bodyworks is nice and thoughtful. But for my mom (who underwent chemotherapy and had a double mastectomy last year), the woman’s compliment was so special that it brought tears to her eyes, and obviously mine, too.

The kind woman standing behind us could have easily not said anything, but her ability to care enough to make my mom’s day a little brighter was inspiring. It got me thinking a lot about empathy and our responsibility to care about one another. I began to dissect the concept of empathy and how it shapes our society.

Sometimes, our individual problems seem so grand that we forget to remember the importance of caring about problems that affect others. This is as important in a small scale (like the lady in Bath & Bodyworks going out of her way to bring a little happiness to someone else) as it is in a large scale (like protesting and advocating for women’s reproductive rights even if you won’t personally be affected by future legislations, or advocating for equality of all races even if you are not personally a minority).

In our society, though, we often get asked questions along the lines of “Why do you care so much? It won’t affect you.” This is a huge issue. Empathy shouldn’t have to be explained or argued; we shouldn’t have to explain why we care about social issues affecting different social groups or why we care to make other people’s lives better.

In addition–and in regards to the current division in our society–having empathy shouldn’t get people labeled as snowflakes or crazy liberals;  we have to remember that sticking up for others is most important when it seems like the most difficult thing to do. (The Huffington Post)

Empathy should guide us to be better versions of ourselves and should also help us form a better world for each other. It creates the brightest moments of humanity: when we uplift each other and work hard for society as a unit and not just with self-interest.

Image from: rollcall.com