Empathy and the Charmed Life

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    Aug 05, 2012 1:25 PM GMT
    I had an interesting conversation with a friend yesterday who basically said that since my life has been free of any real hardship or trouble that I was incapable of being totally empathetic with people who were suffering and that it took some strife in one's life to develop real character. I'm aware that my circumstances are more fortunate than a lot of other people's but I don't think that means I'm not able to be empathetic or lack character. What do you think? Do you have to have been through some hellish circumstance to become a well-rounded person in terms of character and feelings?
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    Aug 05, 2012 1:35 PM GMT
    No, that's not true at all. For some reason people are conditioned to believe that hardship will make you a better person in the end. This may be the case for some people (I feel like I fit into that category), but I notice many people have never received the right coping skills and let these situations negatively affect their lives.

    I feel like you have a better chance of being a well-rounded person when you have a relatively normal life (whatever that is).
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    Aug 05, 2012 1:41 PM GMT
    My ol'man's saying was that "suffering builds character".

    Mine is that "if you think this life is easy, you're not doing it right."
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    Aug 05, 2012 1:42 PM GMT

    No. icon_wink.gif
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    Aug 05, 2012 1:47 PM GMT
    And, not to rain on your parade, but you will have troubles in your life eventually. Everyone does. No reason to go looking for them or pre-live them.

    You seem quite empathetic to me, BTW.
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    Aug 05, 2012 1:52 PM GMT
    showme saidAnd, not to rain on your parade, but you will have troubles in your life eventually. Everyone does. No reason to go looking for them or pre-live them.

    You seem quite empathetic to me, BTW.


    A friend once complained that her life was a constant struggle but that her brothers had it made, had no problems. Life for them was completely easy. Within about three months of telling me that, her one brother got news of cancer and was dead that year. The other brother was caught in a scandal (supposedly scapegoated, who knows) and lost his very high public position and all its benefits.

    "If you have no troubles, buy a goat"~~proverb
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    Aug 05, 2012 1:52 PM GMT
    I tend to agree; however, one mans hardship is another's good day.
    As it applies to relationships, you really don't know your man till you have a medical or economical hardship, people tend to show their true character during times of stress.
    Not to sure empathy has anything to do with it; in fact, life experience can cause you to be less empathetic.
    I'm constantly thinking or saying: "Man the fuck up".
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    Aug 05, 2012 1:53 PM GMT
    No, your friend is mistaken.
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    Aug 05, 2012 2:00 PM GMT
    "Every human being is intended to have a character of his own; to be what no others are, and to do what no other can do."
    William Henry Channing

    Character is built in many ways, and not all who have been through hardships develop better character or empathy than those who have not faced adversity.




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    Aug 05, 2012 2:10 PM GMT
    Struggle doesn't guarantee building character, or improvement, or refinement, etc., as that's sort of the weeding out process, but where in evolution--be it the evolution of a species, of an idea, of a consciousness--do you see significant progress without it?
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    Aug 05, 2012 2:15 PM GMT
    I think everyone faces some level of adversity in their life. Just because we don't all face some catastrophe does not mean we do not face a struggle.

    Put another way; it's not the size of the problems but the quality of the decisions that builds character.



    theantijock saidStruggle doesn't guarantee building character, or improvement, or refinement, etc., as that's sort of the weeding out process, but where in evolution--be it the evolution of a species, of an idea, of a consciousness--do you see significant progress without it?
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    Aug 05, 2012 2:21 PM GMT
    I think your friend is a judgmental cunt.
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    Aug 05, 2012 2:33 PM GMT
    LIEV saidI think your friend is a judgmental cunt.


    LOL I'm sure everybody has one of those friends that they've had forever (since junior high in this case) and that they disagree with on everything. We made it through the "you can't understand where I'm coming from because you're white" and "you went away to college and turned your back on your roots" arguments. We'll be ok on this one too.
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    Aug 05, 2012 2:34 PM GMT
    creyente saidI think everyone faces some level of adversity in their life. Just because we don't all face some catastrophe does not mean we do not face a struggle.

    Put another way; it's not the size of the problems but the quality of the decisions that build character.


    theantijock saidStruggle doesn't guarantee building character, or improvement, or refinement, etc., as that's sort of the weeding out process, but where in evolution--be it the evolution of a species, of an idea, of a consciousness--do you see significant progress without it?


    Well, if anyone has someone they love, more than likely at some point they will face one of the ultimate stuggles of learning to live with that loss. Have they the capacity to help someone through similar pain?

    And what might look like a good decision might simply be the easy way out. If I don't make any friends, then I reduce my chances of being betrayed, of losing a loved one to death, so was that really such a great decision?

    You can be a dandelion seed and breeze though life or you can grasp something more substantial. How are those weights working for you?
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    Aug 05, 2012 2:42 PM GMT
    Actually you are only emphasizing what I'm saying.


    theantijock said

    Well, if anyone has someone they love, more than likely at some point they will face one of the ultimate stuggles of learning to live with that loss. Have they the capacity to help someone through similar pain?

    As I said, there are some who go through adversity and do not build character or empathy. There is no guarantee adversity builds either of those. Although having the capacity to help someone does not necessarily require character or empathy. No disagreement here.

    And what might look like a good decision might simply be the easy way out. If I don't make any friends, then I reduce my chances of being betrayed, of losing a loved one to death, so was that really such a great decision?

    Then, as you stated, the decision is not a quality decision. The easy way out is rarely ever the best way out. No disagreement here.

    You can be a dandelion seed and breeze though life or you can grasp something more substantial. How are those weights working for you?

    Again, seems we have no argument here.
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    Aug 05, 2012 2:43 PM GMT
    theantijock said
    creyente saidI think everyone faces some level of adversity in their life. Just because we don't all face some catastrophe does not mean we do not face a struggle.

    Put another way; it's not the size of the problems but the quality of the decisions that build character.


    theantijock saidStruggle doesn't guarantee building character, or improvement, or refinement, etc., as that's sort of the weeding out process, but where in evolution--be it the evolution of a species, of an idea, of a consciousness--do you see significant progress without it?


    Well, if anyone has someone they love, more than likely at some point they will face one of the ultimate stuggles of learning to live with that loss. Have they the capacity to help someone through similar pain?

    And what might look like a good decision might simply be the easy way out. If I don't make any friends, then I reduce my chances of being betrayed, of losing a loved one to death, so was that really such a great decision?

    You can be a dandelion seed and breeze though life or you can grasp something more substantial. How are those weights working for you?


    I get what you're saying but does not ever having gone through that kind of loss yet make one less able to help someone in that situation or (more likely) is the person who is going through that now more likely to grasp onto someone who he or she knows has been through something similar? I think lack of experience is more likely going to lead to someone not really appreciating what you have to offer in a situation more than not really having anything to offer at all.
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    Aug 05, 2012 2:45 PM GMT
    creyente saidActually you are only emphasizing what I'm saying.


    theantijock said

    Well, if anyone has someone they love, more than likely at some point they will face one of the ultimate stuggles of learning to live with that loss. Have they the capacity to help someone through similar pain?

    As I said, there are some who go through adversity and do not build character or empathy. There is no guarantee adversity builds either of those. No disagreement here.

    And what might look like a good decision might simply be the easy way out. If I don't make any friends, then I reduce my chances of being betrayed, of losing a loved one to death, so was that really such a great decision?

    Then, as you stated, the decision is not a quality decision. The easy way out is rarely ever the best way out. No disagreement here.

    You can be a dandelion seed and breeze though life or you can grasp something more substantial. How are those weights working for you?

    Again, seems we have no argument here.


    So it is only conversation when there is disagreement? Wanna fight about that?

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    Aug 05, 2012 2:48 PM GMT
    So it's a disagreement when I concur with you, but only conversation when you concur with me? icon_wink.gif

    And No, I do not wish to fight with someone who has so much to offer.

    theantijock said
    creyente said
    So it is only conversation when there is disagreement? Wanna fight about that?

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    Aug 05, 2012 2:49 PM GMT
    Coach_Mike said
    theantijock said
    creyente saidI think everyone faces some level of adversity in their life. Just because we don't all face some catastrophe does not mean we do not face a struggle.

    Put another way; it's not the size of the problems but the quality of the decisions that build character.


    theantijock saidStruggle doesn't guarantee building character, or improvement, or refinement, etc., as that's sort of the weeding out process, but where in evolution--be it the evolution of a species, of an idea, of a consciousness--do you see significant progress without it?


    Well, if anyone has someone they love, more than likely at some point they will face one of the ultimate stuggles of learning to live with that loss. Have they the capacity to help someone through similar pain?

    And what might look like a good decision might simply be the easy way out. If I don't make any friends, then I reduce my chances of being betrayed, of losing a loved one to death, so was that really such a great decision?

    You can be a dandelion seed and breeze though life or you can grasp something more substantial. How are those weights working for you?


    I get what you're saying but does not ever having gone through that kind of loss yet make one less able to help someone in that situation or (more likely) is the person who is going through that now more likely to grasp onto someone who he or she knows has been through something similar? I think lack of experience is more likely going to lead to someone not really appreciating what you have to offer in a situation more than not really having anything to offer at all.


    And as dustin mentioned the experience might simply have hardened someone. So then the trick of course is not simply what we experience but how we experience what we experience and how we then incorporate that into our lives.

    I'm simply suggesting that there's a difference between leading a charmed life and taking the easy way out.
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    Aug 05, 2012 2:53 PM GMT
    creyente saidSo, it's a disagreement when I concur with you, but only conversation when you concur with me? icon_wink.gif

    And No. I do not wish to fight with someone who has so much to offer.

    theantijock said
    creyente said
    So it is only conversation when there is disagreement? Wanna fight about that?



    The operative--taken by me as slightly contentious-word was "only" as in "only emphasizing".

    Again, how we experience what we experience.

    Oh, and PS, Thank you for your kind words
    PPS. i was just kidding about the fight, of course.
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    Aug 05, 2012 2:56 PM GMT
    True. Never easy communicating via the internet.

    theantijock said
    The operative--taken by me as slightly contentious-word was "only" as in "only emphasizing".

    Again, how we experience what we experience.
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    Aug 05, 2012 3:02 PM GMT
    creyente saidTrue. Never easy communicating via the internet.

    theantijock said
    The operative--taken by me as slightly contentious-word was "only" as in "only emphasizing".

    Again, how we experience what we experience.


    So then by my theory, the struggles created by the internet should make us better at reading each other. Oh well, so much for theory.
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    Aug 05, 2012 3:12 PM GMT
    Well if we were in agreement, wouldn't it be "our" theory? icon_wink.gif

    I know... terrible.. aren't I? icon_twisted.gif

    Also, the theory still stands.

    The fact that we had a stumble in our understanding does not mean that we have not become better at reading each other. Neither does it imply that we will not become better in the future.

    theantijock said
    creyente saidTrue. Never easy communicating via the internet.

    theantijock said
    The operative--taken by me as slightly contentious-word was "only" as in "only emphasizing".

    Again, how we experience what we experience.


    So then by my theory, the struggles created by the internet should make us better at reading each other. Oh well, so much for theory.
  • Jerebear

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    Aug 05, 2012 3:28 PM GMT
    No, and I can see how hardship may make one less empathetic, sort of a "I did it, something must be wrong with you that you didnt do it" attitude. An example would be that I find ex-smokers who have gotten through the hardship of quitting are far far less sympathetic to current smokers than people who have never smoked are.

    The big exception is money. People who are fortunate with money tend to be less empathetic. There's plenty of research showing this. A good recent article summarizing that is here: http://nymag.com/print/?/news/features/money-brain-2012-7/
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    Aug 05, 2012 3:30 PM GMT
    creyente saidWell if we were in agreement, wouldn't it be "our" theory? icon_wink.gif

    I know... terrible.. aren't I? icon_twisted.gif

    Also, the theory still stands.

    The fact that we had a stumble in our understanding does not mean that we have not become better at reading each other. Neither does it imply that we will not become better in the future.

    theantijock said
    creyente saidTrue. Never easy communicating via the internet.

    theantijock said
    The operative--taken by me as slightly contentious-word was "only" as in "only emphasizing".

    Again, how we experience what we experience.


    So then by my theory, the struggles created by the internet should make us better at reading each other. Oh well, so much for theory.


    The "my" of "my theory" wasn't possessive as in taking origination credit but adherent as in joining the existing, ie my religion, my country, my people, etc.

    No, you're not terrible; but you're right and now I get it: you're a nudge (ooops, I forgot, this is the internet, so just to be clear: said with love). My humor is too dry to wear one but it looks cute on you.