Sunday, January 10, 2010
"'...if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view--until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.'"
To Kill a Mockingbird
If I could only instill one character quality in my children out of all of the dozens of qualities they could acquire, it would be empathy. You see, once a child has empathy, he has a much higher likelihood of utilizing all of the other character qualities we desire for him to have.
Sure, a child can be diligent, but without empathy causing him to feel that someone needs something done, diligence might not help him much. A person can be extremely kind, but without the ability to see others' needs and extend that kindness, that quality can literally go unused. A Christian may be as loving as can be, but without the ability to see the unlovely ones, that love will not be spread as high and as wide and as deep as it could be.
Empathy may be defined as "a consistent consciousness of others." An awareness of others' needs with the desire to meet those needs. Walking in another's shoes--and a deep longing to act upon the knowledge gained from walking in those shoes. Or, simply "seeing others' needs and truly wanting to meet them."
In Harper Lee's novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout's father, Atticus Finch, teaches his young daughter about empathy after she had a confrontation with her teacher. He says it in such a way that one cannot help understand the very heart of empathy training, that of getting into someone's skin and seeing life from his perspective: "'...if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view--until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.'" That is truly the depth of empathy training our children need.
*Note: We feel that empathy training is at the heart of Christian living and parenting! We will have literally dozens of tips for teaching children empathy in Positive Parenting 3*6*5 throughout this year—so “stay tuned” and look for the tag “empathy training” in the labels beneath the posts.