We know empathy is a learned skill. As we grow up, our families, it is hoped, will help us, through modeling and through life experiences, teach us to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes.
If we want a toy, and just take it, our families or our teachers, help us to think about what it felt like to have a toy taken from us. Using age appropriate language, we are lead through how when we took someone else’s toy, we caused someone else to feel sad and hurt. When possible, we have our child apologize and teach them how to ask for something nicely.
Hopefully, each time something similar happens, we realize, as we grow older, to better understand our emotions, and how our actions might cause another to feel. Although we are not in control of anyone else’s thoughts, feelings, and emotions, we can watch our own thoughts, feelings, and emotions. We can watch what we do and say by thinking about how we can affect others.
Over time though, as we work to empathize with others, does there come a time where we stop empathizing with a person.
Will it happen because of how a person has treated us, or have taken many more withdrawals with a rare deposit in our buckets? Can we love someone, but stop empathizing with their situation because of how they have manipulated us over time? What about if they have mislead, distorted the truth, or outright lied to us?
If we stop empathizing, does it also mean we don’t care for them anymore? Do we no longer care what happens to them? Have they taken so much there is nothing left to give? Can we empathize with their situation while also allowing them to experience the situation without offering assistance, of being drawn into their drama?
As importantly, can empathy for a person return? If so, what helps bring it back? Or is it empathy never leaves, it is felt, but not necessarily acted upon?
What are your thoughts?