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An Ancient Empathy Exercise

The Golden Rule:

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

-Luke 6:31, NIV

February 7th I have the opportunity to share on the topic of “The Spirituality of Empathy” at the Leading Age Expo. I am excited to talk about how important empathy is for our industry as well as personally, from a professional chaplain’s perspective. 

An Ancient Empathy ExerciseThe reality, though, is what I am sharing in February is not new. Spiritual leaders from many faith traditions have understood the importance of empathy for millennia. Practicing empathy has a long and venerable pedigree.

Now, the ancients probably did not label their ethical practice with the term, “empathy.” However, they were engaging in empathy practice nevertheless.

Perhaps, like the ancient faith leaders, you too have unwittingly been engaging in practicing empathy yourself.

“How so?” you ask. The answer is simple:

You engage in practicing empathy every time you apply The Golden Rule—“Do unto others as you would like done unto yourself”—to your life or decision-making process.

You see, you cannot live by The Golden Rule without engaging in empathy.

The Golden Rule requires practitioners to put themselves in the “other’s shoes” and consider how they would feel in that position. That is empathy in practice.

We know this instinctively when someone violates The Golden Rule. Consider a time when someone has treated you poorly or unfairly. I am sure you have asked or thought to ask a version of the following question of the offender:

How would you feel if I did the same thing to you?

When we ask this question, we are appealing to The Golden Rule. We are asking the offender to take our perspective and feel what we are feeling with the hope they will realize what they did was wrong. In other words, we are asking this person to empathize with us.

If we value living by The Golden Rule—which most people do—then we must also value exercising empathy.

Empathy is important to living an ethical life. That is true whether you are working at, living in, or just visiting one of our senior living communities.

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