Using and Building upon Empathy


From the outset, when you say that you want to do the right thing, you are making a moral statement, even though it may be a subjective one. And you are hoping that other people want to do the right thing with you. The fact that you experience this urge to do the right thing makes you a truly special human being. Why? Because it means you have empathy.

Empathy is that special ability to put your self in the shoes of others, feel their pain, and care about relieving that pain. If this were a universal trait in humans, it would not be so highly prized. But empathy is NOT a universal human trait. Here is another important precept to embrace before we start your in-depth education in fundraising.

No one is born with empathy. It has to be developed.

Some of us develop empathy over time as we grow from childhood to adults. Some individuals develop this capacity early and display it in abundance even as children.

But others never develop empathy, and some people are born devoid of the ability to develop it. I’ll talk about those people in a much later blog, but if you’ve read Turn Right at the Dancing Cow, you already know a lot about these people, and you know that I call them “Scorpions.” They not only have no capacity for empathy; they also are the most dangerous and destructive people on the planet. (Think Hitler, Alexander the Great, Bernie Madoff.)

I always find it sad that perfectly normal people who are born with the capacity for empathy frequently fail to develop that capacity. But this is a reality, and I want you to be aware of it and understand that it happens for many reasons. Abuse, neglect, over-indulgence, and limited opportunities are some of the reasons this happens.

Occasionally, an existential awakening snaps these people out of their sleepwalk through life. But absent such an awakening, these people are completely incapable of compassion for others. This means they wouldn’t lift a finger to help other people, no matter how much pain they witnessed.

My final observation on empathy is that there are perfectly normal individuals who develop their capacity for empathy but then lose it because they become addicted to various substances (like alcohol, street drugs, or prescription medications) or to some idea (like power, making money, shopping, or even a particular lifestyle). Addicts act like Scorpions in every respect, and like Scorpions, they are extremely dangerous.

In the course of these blogs, I’m going to focus my lessons on teaching you how to identify people with empathy and who can, therefore, show compassion for others. The reason?

Only people with empathy have the capacity to respond to your appeals for volunteer and/or financial help with your projects.

Since I’m certain you have empathy and actually want to help relieve the pain and suffering of others, I applaud you. However, that doesn’t mean your life will be easier. In fact, life will actually be harder for you. As a result of your sensitivity to the needs of others, you will really hurt when other people hurt. And the lack of empathy you see in those unable to show concern and compassion for others will deeply trouble you.

My goal in these blogs is to show you how to build teams and communities around higher-purpose projects of like-minded souls, and if you learn to do it well, this will lighten the burden of having real empathy. In fact, creating and participating in humanitarian, compassionate, and problem-solving communities is one of the greatest highs a human being can experience.