Empathy is a human quality that makes us better partners, relatives, colleagues, and friends. Defined loosely as the ability to understand and share in someone else’s feelings, empathy is one way we can connect with others, particularly those who have different identities or circumstances than us.
Empathy can be cultivated and exercised in a number of ways, perhaps most simply by holding space, listening, and extending grace toward others. Tuning in to people’s emotions helps us understand them more clearly, which strengthens and deepens our relationships. Not only that, but empathy helps us get to know ourselves better as well. By putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes and imagining how they must feel , we are given the opportunity to view life from a different angle, and to expand our capacity to hold other people’s struggles alongside our own.
Below, we’ve rounded up 15 quotes that speak to the importance and beauty of empathy in making us more compassionate, whole-hearted human beings.
The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy; we can all sense a mysterious connection to each other.Meryl Streep
Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?Henry David Thoreau
An exchange of empathy provides an entry point for a lot of people to see what healing feels like.Tarana Burke, activist
Empathy begins with understanding life from another person’s perspective. Nobody has an objective experience of reality. It’s all through our own individual prisms.Sterling K. Brown, actor
Empathy comes from the Greek “empatheia” — “em” (into) and “pathos” (feeling) — a penetration, a kind of travel. It suggests you enter another person’s pain as you’d enter another country…Leslie Jamison, novelist
Whenever you feel like criticizing any one… just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.F. Scott Fitzgerald
I think we all have empathy. We may not have enough courage to display it.Maya Angelou
Whenever you are about to find fault with someone, ask yourself the following question: What fault of mine most nearly resembles the one I am about to criticize?Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor
This capacity for empathy leads to a genuine encounter — we have to progress toward this culture of encounter — in which heart speaks to heart.Pope Francis
Only the development of compassion and understanding for others can bring us the tranquility and happiness we all seek.Dalai Lama
No one reaches out to you for compassion or empathy so you can teach them how to behave better. They reach out to us because they believe in our capacity to know our darkness well enough to sit in the dark with them.Brené Brown
All I ever wanted was to reach out and touch another human being not just with my hands but with my heart.Tahereh Mafi, author
Judge tenderly, if you must. There is usually a side you have not heard, a story you know nothing about, and a battle waged that you do not have to fight.Traci Lea Larussa, writer and illustrator
I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded person.Walt Whitman
Learning to stand in somebody else’s shoes, to see through their eyes, that’s how peace begins. And it’s up to you to make that happen. Empathy is a quality of character that can change the world.Barack Obama
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