Tag: Empathy


Norway's Beautiful Ring of Peace

What does it mean to build a holy place around us? In Oslo, Norway, the true power of building a holy place together was on display this weekend as hundreds of Muslims responded to a call to surround the central synagogue with what organizers dubbed a “Peace Ring.” The Peace Ring was a symbolic act, to show that these Muslims and the many volunteers who participated with them are committed to protect their sisters and brothers who are Jews, and to do so in the name of Islam, the faith that inspires......

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'American Sniper' in a Polarized America

Clint Eastwood’s film about the late Chris Kyle – nominated for six Academy Awards this weekend – is not only the highest-grossing war film of all time. American Sniper has become a cultural lightning rod for fierce, emotional debates about the very meaning of war, heroism, sacrifice, patriotism and truth. We know that Kyle, a U.S. Navy SEAL, endured four combat tours of duty in Iraq and was nicknamed Legend for being the most lethal sniper in U.S history. At a firing range in 2013, Kyle was tragically shot and killed by......

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The 'Bystander Effect' and Why We Look Away

When something terrible happens to an individual, why do witnesses freeze up or choose inaction, especially when in a group? One such story to gain major media attention was that of Catherine “Kitty” Genovese, brutally murdered in 1964 in Queens, New York. According to initial reports, as many as 37 of her neighbors heard or saw Genovese being attacked in the alley near her home; later reports called that number into question. Still, her killing sparked the first studies of what’s come to be known as the Bystander Effect -? a sociological......

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A Deep Dive into 'Shark Tank'

On Shark Tank, the ABC reality show, inventors pitch their ideas to multimillionaire venture capitalists, in hopes of striking a lucrative partnership. As with most “reality” TV, Shark Tank is problematic; as a series about new businesses, this particular iteration sacrifices serious investment and entrepreneurial lessons for entertainment. It also probably gives viewers a vicarious thrill: either winning a capitalist lottery, or deciding someone’s fate. This “emotionally rich” experience surely deflects (and diffuses) people’s anger at crony capitalism and an economic system rigged against them. But even a manipulative reality show sometime......

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A New Year's Challenge: Connecting While Disagreeing

What resolution can we make as we begin 2015 that would have the greatest impact on our personal and public lives? I found my answer reading a remarkable interview in the new Smithsonian magazine of the civil rights historian Taylor Branch, whose three-volume, 2,500-page chronicle, America in the King Years, is a landmark biography in American history. In the article – filled with fascinating insights about Martin Luther King Jr. and his doctrine of nonviolence – Branch tells an extraordinary story about three Freedom Riders, Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney.......

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What the World Needs Now Is Empathy

In reading feedback about Brittany Maynard’s physician-assisted suicide, I wondered: How much empathy do we possess, as individuals and as a culture? Do we truly even know what empathy is, and what behavior it requires of us? When Maynard went public with her decision about how and when she would end her life on November 1, 2014, I was immediately transported back to my mother’s last months in 2009. She was faced with the same cancer as Brittany, and after the 11-hour brain surgery, an inserted chemo-wafer into the brain, and a......

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We Are More Than the Sum of Our Stories

TWD contributor, Amy Shouse wrote a recent post about how we rush to judgment and that “until we know a person’s whole story and take a moment to think what it might be like to ‘climb into their skin,’ we’ll miss out on discovering the empathy we have within ourselves…” She was right on. This insight is taken radically and unnervingly further on Yom Kippur, the most sacred day in the Jewish calendar, which begins tomorrow evening. Repeatedly, during this daylong practice of Reality Therapy devoted to forgiveness, we are reminded that......

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The Trap of Making Assumptions and Judging

When was the last time you made an assumption about another person, whether it be from their behavior or appearance, without knowing a thing about them? Yesterday? Today? A few minutes ago? Maybe it was the guy in the Hummer tailgating you that you assumed was a jerk. Perhaps the woman in line at the grocery store who snapped at the checker because she was in a hurry seemed mean and selfish. These are assumptions that many people might agree with. But what if you learned more about these people? What if......

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Is There an App for Empathy?

We are hardwired to feel unease, and even fear, around strangers. Meanwhile, every religion on the planet (at least at their most evolved levels) teaches us to “love the stranger.” Well, it’s pretty clear religion – with its technologies, wisdom and practices – has not gotten the job done. But what if there were new, innovative technologies that could help us nurture empathy for the stranger? There just might be, in 20 Day Stranger – an experiment from the MIT Media Lab’s Playful Systems Group, and the Dalai Lama Center for Transformative......

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When a Friend Is Suffering, How Do You Help?

How do you comfort someone going through a really hard time in life? Recently, I received an email from someone describing how his very good friend’s 42 year-old daughter (a woman with two young children, age 4 and 6 – his grandchildren) was diagnosed last year with cancer and just entered hospice. This man lost his only son 12 years ago in an auto accident. And on top of all this, his brother, with whom he’s extremely close, just had major heart surgery. He asked me if The Wisdom Daily had any......

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