This month I’ve blogged about random acts of love and kindness. Too often it feels as if the world has become colder, harder, less kind. As February draws to a close, let’s look at how the animal kingdom performs random acts of love and kindness.
All month I’ve been asking you to perform random acts of love and kindness but perhaps you’re perplexed by this. Why should you love your fellow man?
Empathy is …
… the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Empathy helps you make a partnership with your spouse. It tugs at your heartstrings when your child skins their knee. When your neighbor’s wife dies, empathy inspires you to take the widower a casserole. Empathy is part of 98% of all human beings. Yet, acting on empathy for a stranger takes…
I think we all have empathy. We may not have enough courage to display it.Maya Angelou
… courage. Acting on empathy for someone not-like-ourselves takes courage. We can learn that courage from animals who make interspecies friendships.
We often see images of different species of animals acting with kindness toward one another. If the animals can do it across species and against instincts, shouldn’t we be able to?
Types of Empathy
Psychologists have identified three types of empathy: Cognitive, Emotional, and Compassionate.
Cognitive Empathy is the ability to understand another’s perspective or emotional state. If you have cognitive empathy, you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes.
Emotional Empathy also called Personal Distress is the ability to respond with an appropriate emotion to another’s mental or emotional state. Babies cry when they hear another baby cry. You get scared when watching or reading a frightening scene. If you have a pet, you may remember a time when your dog or cat comforted you during a sad time.
Compassionate Empathy, also called Empathetic Concern, goes beyond understanding or responding with an appropriate emotion. It moves us to act, to help. Like Cholli the German Shepherd helped these cubs.
Showing compassion with a random act of love and kindness doesn’t mean you agree with the other’s religion or philosophy or politics. It means you can put yourself into someone else’s shoes, ‘feel their pain,’ and attempt to relieve it if only for a moment.
Compassion for animals is intimately associated with goodness of character, and it may be confidently asserted that he who is cruel to animals cannot be a good man.Arthur Schopenhauer
I would rephrase Schopenhauer’s words a bit.
Any person who is cruel to another person cannot be a good person.
At our best, we practice empathy, imagining ourselves in the lives and circumstances of others. This is the bridge across our nation’s deepest divisions.The Honorable George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the United States
Let’s all practice empathy every day. Show it through random acts of love and kindness. If you haven’t yet, read the other post about Random Acts of Love: Random Acts of Love, Inspirational Random Acts of Love, and Random Acts of Love May Save Your Country. An act as simple as holding the door for someone can turn a bad day around.
Animals don’t hate, and we’re supposed to be better than them.Elvis Presley
The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man.Charles Darwin
Take a clue from the animal kingdom. Find opportunities to perform random acts of love and kindness. You’ll help someone who may need it desperately. And you’ll reap rewards that will last you a lifetime.