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Empathy

  • It takes time plus sympathy to develop empathy.

  • ... empathy, the least comfortable of human emotions.

  • That person is most cultivated who is able to put himself in the place of the greatest number of other persons.

    • Jane Addams,
    • speech (1914), in Expositor and Current Anecdotes ()
  • One must have the humility and the imagination to honor all deep human experiences — not least those one has never come near to sharing.

  • ... the novel is inherently a political instrument, regardless of its subject. It invites you — more than invites you, induces you — to live inside another person's skin. It creates empathy. And that's the antidote to bigotry. The novel doesn't just tell you about another life, which is what a newspaper would do. It makes you live another life, inhabit another perspective. And that's very important.

  • However long the horror continued, one must not get to the stage of refusing to think about it. To shrink from direct pain was bad enough, but to shrink from vicarious pain was the ultimate cowardice. And whereas to conceal direct pain was a virtue, to conceal vicarious pain was a sin. Only by feeling it to the utmost, and by expressing it, could the rest of the world help to heal the injury which had caused it. Money, food, clothing, shelter — people could give all these and still it would not be enough; it would not absolve them from paying also, in full, the imponderable tribute of grief.

    • Jan Struther,
    • "United Jewish Appeal," A Pocketful of Pebbles ()
  • She did not talk to people as if they were strange hard shells she had to crack open to get inside. She talked as if she were already in the shell. In their very shell.

    • Marita Bonner,
    • "Nothing New" (1926), Frye Street and Environs ()
  • I have always been myself and at the same time someone else; always able to be the other person, feel with him, think his thoughts, see from the angle in which he has found himself. It is the only genius that I have ever had, but it has been enough.

  • The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy.

    • Meryl Streep,
    • in Kristen Golden and Barbara Findlen, Remarkable Women of the Twentieth Century ()
  • 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.

  • Empathy requires knowing you know nothing. Empathy means acknowledging a horizon of context that extends perpetually beyond what you can see.

  • Empathy is the most revolutionary emotion.

  • The way we act toward 'others' is shaped by the way we imagine them. ... the human capacity to injure other people is very great precisely because our capacity to imagine other people is very small.

    • Elaine Scarry,
    • "The Difficulty of Imagining Other People," in Martha C. Nussbaum, For Love of Country: Debating the Limits of Patriotism ()