Part 2: Running to Empathy and Away from Ego


In Part 1 of this series, we discussed how our ego-centric culture is driving our focus away from others and onto ourselves, making us a less empathetic population as a whole. Perhaps in technologically advances societies like the US, this problems permeates at a higher rate.

In 2015, Guy Winch from Psychology Today wrote about how our cellphones can take a toll on our relationships, in which he cites “technoference.” “Technoference,” coined by researchers at Brigam Young University cites how smartphones are taking over our relationships. And as we devote more and more attention to them, we decrease the devotion we’re giving to both our significant others and others in general.

But how do we re-center ourselves? How do we eliminate this need for constant contact, for quasi-connectedness? And what do these things have to do with our increasing levels of busyness and declining levels of empathy? We must remind ourselves that the things that keep us busy, that drive our attention to ourselves, and that take our attention away are all often things that lack permanence. It is our own selfish idolization of ourselves and our technology that feeds our lack of empathy.

Spiritual teachings from Christianity to Bhuddism emphasize the need to flee from worldly idols, and to focus ourselves instead on pouring into and uplifting others. In Galatians, Paul reminds us to “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” As we go forward, let us strive to remove ourselves from the center of our lives, and return to fundamental spiritual principles that preach a lack of ego and an emphasis on empathy.

However, it is not necessarily the idols of consumerism and technology that are causing the problem; they merely perpetuate the pitfalls of society that lie at our foundation. These issues are both barriers to what Thomas Merton refers to as the “inner ground of love,” coined by Thomas Merton and other mystics throughout the ages.

The cure to these idolizations does not lie within our hands, but within our minds and hearts. For instance, Patty writes that “contemplative practice can be a powerful antidote for our addictions to technology and consumption.” For instance, meditation provides a fantastic way for you to remove yourself from your current state and sink deeply into your true self – “the inner ground of love where separation does not exist.” Thomas Merton stated, “If the deepest ground of my being is love, then in that very love and nowhere else will I find myself, the world, and my brother and sister in Christ. It is not a question of either-or but all-in-one. It is not a matter of exclusivity and ‘purity’ but of wholeness, wholeheartedness, unity, and of…(equality) which finds the same ground of love in everything.”

 “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