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The Power Of Empathy

The Power Of Empathy

By Rupert Johnson
PRIDE Columnist

rupert johnson cmykWith regard to the perennial wave of crime and violence in Jamaica, it was heartening to read the comments of Robertino Gordon, dean of discipline at Cornwall College in Montego Bay. He stressed the fact that parents should be held accountable for the “upbringing of their children.”

There is no doubt that parents should exercise moral responsibility for their children’s overall behaviour. And there is no doubt that young children are like sponges that (at an impressionable age) readily absorb the attitudes and values of those closest to them. Children learn by example, therefore they will automatically imbibe and imitate the attitudinal behaviour of their parents and other parental figures.

From what I have heard, there seems to be a drastic breakdown of traditional values in Jamaica. It would appear that gone are the days when children respected their elders and those in authority such as teachers. Gone are the days when empathy was a cornerstone of the once traditional value system in Jamaica.

Empathy may be defined as identifying with the thoughts and feelings of others. Simply put, empathy is putting oneself in another person’s shoes.

It may be said that the lack of empathy can create a desensitized individual who does not identify with the thoughts and feelings of others. And it should be noted that it is relatively easy for a desensitized person to exhibit anti-social and violent behaviour patterns.

All children should learn to empathize at an early age. This is the time when parents should be fully engaged in discussing important questions such as: How would you feel if you were picked on, teased and ridiculed every single day?

The aim is, by discussing their feelings and learning that others have the same feelings too, young children will gradually become sensitized and thus develop empathy. Therefore, early upbringing is vitally important.

According to Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

Rupert Johnson can be reached at: r.b.johnson@sympatico.ca

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