Empathy is a superpower. It is like a cross between telepathy, x-ray vision, and shape-shifting. Empathy allows us to read minds, to see through facades into the souls of those around us, and to actually become those people for a moment, to see, feel, and experience their inner workings, those things which bring them joy, pain, excitement or terror. Like all superpowers, empathy can be used for good or it can be used for evil.
Empathy gives us a glimpse into the hearts and minds of those around us. If we pay attention, it is a teacher. We can learn from it how to better treat one another. Empathy allows us to see and feel the wants and desires of those we come into contact with, but with this power comes with a choice. Once we know who someone truly is, how they operate on the deepest, most intimate levels, we have to decide what we do with that information.
Empathy gives us insights into another person’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Once we see and feel a person like this, beyond their defenses, inside their deepest selves, we must choose whether we will embrace and uplift the person we find, becoming what and who they need, whether we will ignore them and carry on as if it does not matter, or whether we will cut them down for being so weak and vulnerable with us to let us in. Empathy is a superpower, but, as with all great power, it comes with great responsibility as it allows us to hold someone’s heart in our hands to with the power to love, to deny, or to destroy.
– Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Gracie Jiu-Jitsu