Empathy Is On the Extinction List

Saturday I had to go to the post office to pick up a certified letter.   I got there a few minutes after they opened and there was already a line of maybe 15 people in front of me.  Two older gentlemen ended up behind me that were had not come together but ended up having a conversation.  While most of it was fine, what I noted what how negative they were about us having to be in line.  Understandably no one wants to stand in line but I also had heard the poor only employee apologizing over and over saying that they had a person call in sick.  Meanwhile he was dealing with a very clueless person who didn’t have a box for her package, seemed confused about a lot of things but he continued to show immense patience and helping others in between.   

Maybe 20 minutes into waiting another employee showed up and was ready to go.  I was pretty much next in line when one of the older men made a comment to me about maybe they could get other workers in since “she showed up”.  I smiled and said that the one employee had been saying they had someone call in sick.  Instead of maybe a bit of empathy that this employee is having a bad day and working his tail off the reply was, “they must have had 3 or 4 call in sick then” as he pointed to the other windows. 

I guess what bothered me was that the lack of empathy and the continued criticism.   Both the older gentleman and I were being helped at the same time.  I was trying to be extra nice to the female who had just showed up.  The gentleman was not out and out rude but very short with the employee that had been there the entire morning.  There was no empathy for him.  Regardless of what the man thought of the scheduling or way it the post office was being ran, none of it was the hard working employees fault. 

This is something I see over and over again.  It’s common for people to think only of themselves and treating other people like they are the problem when it is the situation.  Most of the time the person just “works there” and is in fact doing their job, but gets the blunt of whatever the upset person is mad about.  Rarely do the actual people who make those decisions get to feel what it is like to work with the angry people. 

Also the fact people don’t think about that others call in sick, quit or have emergencies always floors me.  I rarely call in sick but I will tell you that I have some frequent co-workers that tend to have poor immune systems.  However, I know all over us have been on either side of that occurrence and appreciate the patience of others.  So why is it so hard for us to give it to anyone else?  I get that these are people we don’t know, but still they are people.

Now I am all in favor of people doing their jobs well and don’t think it is okay if you notice they are just messing around and ignoring you. Those people don’t seem to have a work ethic and I may call them out nicely on it or not tip as much if it is obvious.    

I see this lack of manners everywhere.  People who watch someone drop things and walk by instead of helping.  There is picture that is circulating on the internet of a very pregnant lady standing on the subway while three men are sitting comfortably.   People don’t even hold the door for others any more.  I know this is not necessary the definition of empathy to most people, but it is to me.  Empathy is noticing a person situation and being moved to do something, even if it is just to be there for them, but something about it.  It is the ultimate manners a person can have and display. 

The fact that on a minimum level we don’t have manners or empathy is concerning.  However, I see that even in our deeper relationship there is a lack of empathy.  It seems that people are content with, “not my problem” or “smells like drama” as a retort instead of maybe actually listening or being there for their friends.  When someone is going thru a very tough time it is more common that a majority of their “friends” drop off and they face it alone or with a fraction of the support they thought they would have.  Most of those “friends” will claim that they didn’t want to make it worse, had too much going on themselves or didn’t know what to do.  To me that is bullshit.  It is that they didn’t want to HAVE to be there or feel anything. 

I really don’t think that people even know what empathy means anymore.  People think that acknowledging that a person feels bad is empathy.  No, that is sympathy.   I am amazed at how people also are impatient that a person is not “over it already”.  No one wants to be around someone that is whining for no reason.  However a break-up, health issue, job loss, death of a loved one and things of that matter are not things someone gets over in a day or a week.  They have good and bad days.  They have a right to feel like crap and have that acknowledged.  Now, if they lost a job and refuse to do anything about it after a month or so, I get being frustrated with them, but also acknowledge it is not easy to go get another one really quick.  Acknowledge their frustration in the search and effort they are putting in and continue to encourage them.  Most people don’t want you to solve the issue, most people know you can’t.  Rather most people want you to just VALIDATE that the issue is there and it sucks!  Is that so hard to do?

Maybe we have desensitized ourselves to things in this world.  Or maybe we are so selfish that thinking of other people’s needs or emotions is too much effort. 

I just believe that empathy is dying……




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I'm turning 40 in April 2017... So much seems to have happened and changed. I guess I am feeling I should have it figured out by 40, but does anyone every really have it all figured out?

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