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Empathy vs. Sympathy

An important way to build “kindness muscles” is to empathize with Others’ problems.
Imagine your friend is in a deep, dark hole. “Sympathy” means standing at the top of the hole, peering in, and saying “Oh, that’s so hard!” “Empathy” means crawling into the hole and being there with them.

Empathy vs. Sympathy

“I know exactly how you feel.”

Moses, went to the slave labor field and put his shoulder to the grindstone. He felt others’ pain as his own, and helped alleviate that burden.

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Foundation of Relationships

“What is the key to a successful, Happy Marriage?”

The foundation of any relationship, is a focus on giving: How can I best contribute to the other’s welfare? If both partners share this attitude, the relationship flows beautifully in both directions, building connection and a common bond of unity and love. Yet when the focus is on taking – “What will s/he do for me?” – the dynamic pulls in the opposite direction, away from the spouse, creating strain and tension. Kindness starts at home, that’s the reason why kindness is the foundation of a loving, enduring marriage.

Avoid the Negative

As any baby will attest, humans are innately selfish. That’s why, in describing kindness, Rabbi Hillel the Great, said: in – [Talmud – Shabbat 31a]

“What is hateful to you, do not do unto others.”

This forces us to think how it would feel to be on the receiving end of indignities we’d rather be spared. Once this first stage of not harming others is instilled in you, for example  – “Don’t throw trash any where” – it extends to a higher level of ethical living, for example; picking up trash on the street.

Some examples of “What is hateful to you…”:

  • Don’t embarrass others.
  • Don’t gossip or speak negatively about others.
  • Don’t take revenge.
  • Don’t disturb another person’s concentration or sleep.
  • Give people the benefit of the doubt.
  • Don’t keep others waiting.
  • Don’t display anger toward others.
  • Protect others from injury or loss.
  • Be honest in business dealings.

Each item takes a lifetime to master. And it’s exactly what we’re here for!