3 things have recently gotten me thinking about empathy:
1) Nick Kristof's recent column on the demise of empathy. ( http://mobile.nytimes.com/2013/11/28/opinion/kristof-where-is-the-love.html?smid=tw-share)
2) A column in the Huffington Post about the hopelessness of being poor in America. (http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/4326233)
3) News story about a Mormon bishop who dressed as a homeless man. (http://www.npr.org/2013/11/29/247825783/costumed-as-homeless-mormon-bishop-teaches-a-lesson-in-compassion?ft=1&f=1001&utm_content=socialflow&utm_campaign=nprnews&utm_source=npr&utm_medium=twitter)
These three stories have reminded me that empathy, or seeing ourselves in another's shoes, is fundamentally important in both religion and politics. Religion brings together people with different experiences. Politics often forces us to face people who disagree with us. In both situations, we need the humility born of empathy to see others and understand them.
King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon teaches a powerful lesson about empathy for the poor:
Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just
But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.
For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?
This scripture reminds me that I too am a beggar, and need to treat others who find themselves in difficult circumstances as I would want to be treated. We may disagree on steps to help the poor, but I hope we can do so while agreeing on measures to assist those who live without hope. I believe food stamps and other social safety next programs are vitally important to children and other innocent victims of poverty.
Apologies for the terrible links in this post, my internet isn't working this evening, so I had to resort to an app to post from my phone. Hope they work!