Part 1: Running to Empathy and Away from Ego


Today, it seems to me that I and everyone around me is constantly at war with their schedule. This battle with busyness is nothing new, and it only seems to intensify as we progress as a society. As our worlds become more interconnected through technology, it seems we constantly need to be doing more, more, more just to feel like we are doing enough. Any ounce of free time leads us to think, “what productive thing could I be doing now that I am not?” To make matters worse, social media provides the perfect platform for people to project their picture-perfect versions of their lives they have expertly curated; and although these snippets are often inaccurate and incomplete, it can leave us feeling both less than and anxious with the thought that we are not doing enough.

As we strive to squeeze in every event, every commitment, we constantly give away our time and energy to causes that may not be worthy. What’s worse is that these dedications perpetuate self-absorption; by constantly feeling like we’re “needed,” our egos inflate, and we continue to orbit around ourselves as the center of our own universe. Yet it is through teachings that we know that a constant focus on ourselves, our needs is exactly what we should avoid; more than this, what we should actively try to fight against. It begs the question; how can we progress in a society that constantly demands we place our attention on ourselves when we know we are to place our attention on others?

Patty Spears dove deeper into this in a blog titled “A Failure of Empathy: Barriers to the Inner Ground of Love,” in 2012. She begs the questions:

  • “What is it about the culture we live in that makes it possible to ignore the suffering of others?
  • “What is it about our technologically superior culture that makes it easy for us to dehumanize others?”
  • “How is it that we often fail at empathy, which is…one of the essential qualities of our humanity?”

Needless to say, our society’s obsession with technology and declining amounts of personal interactions are feeding into our culture’s lack of empathy. Research Maze reported on a study done last year that looked into how technology negatively affected empathy levels. One study found that individuals who had face to face conversations while their phones were not present were more likely to empathize with the individual they were conversing with. Additionally, this study found that those who are more active on social media are more likely to be narcissistic and less empathetic.

In Part 2 of this series, we’ll dive deeper into how technology is expanding the bounds between ourselves and others while bringing us far too close to ourselves. Additionally, we’ll discuss practices that can help us return our focus to others in order to lead a more empathetic life.

For more insight into this subject, please view A Failure of Empathy: Barriers to the Inner Ground of Love.

“When we listen with “open minds” we pay attention to facts and data that are new to us. But when we move to “open heart,” we are listening from a place of empathy—now not the facts but the person we are listening to becomes the focus of our attention—we begin to see things through her eyes.” — Professor C. Otto Scharmer of MIT.