Is Empathy Growing or Slowing?

ImageWith the emphasis on civil rights and feminism in the past few decades, are we becoming more aware of the way we treat each other day to day?

I think we are. The following examples happened a long time ago. I think and hope people are more empathic and sensitive about equality now. What do you think?

• When I was growing up in the 1940’s and 1950’s, my father was a scientist. I would occasionally visit him at his workplace. I’d see him figuring out problems on paper and the experiments in the laboratory next to his office fascinated me. I wanted him to explain to me what he was doing but he’d say, “It’s too technical. You wouldn’t understand.” I’m pretty sure if I had been a boy he would have found a way to satisfy some of my curiosity.

My best friend’s mother had a PhD in chemistry, but that was rare. In those days, girls almost never studied science. I went on to major in music in college, but I still wanted to know what my father was doing and I asked repeatedly. If I could go back in time, I fantasize, I would take him by the collar and hold him there until he took me seriously. My father was usually a kind person. If society said my curiosity didn’t matter because I was a girl, I wish he could have used his empathy to rise above society’s standard. A generation before, my best friend’s grandparents may have encouraged her mother when she showed an interest in chemistry.

• Around twenty years later, some older relatives offered money to one of our young sons for good grades. One of our daughters was in the room. Where was their offer to her? To my amazement, it didn’t come. Why didn’t their empathy trump their belief that only boys matter? This happened about forty years ago. Do things like this still happen? I couldn’t let it stand, so I raised my voice in behalf of my daughter and (it felt to me) all women everywhere and got them to extend the same reward to her.

This blog is short because I’ve been wrapping up my book on The Enneagram of Death this week. Write to me on my web site or through WordPress with stories about empathy.