"In my defense... I saw 'Bring It On'..." -Anonymous Board Writer
Question #92426 posted on 07/08/2019 9:12 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

With the Democratic debates, the state of the world, and Arthur Brooks Commencement speech, I have been thinking a lot about listening to and empathizing with others.

Please listen to Invisibilia episode "The End of Empathy" (can be found on Spotify) and let me know what you think, in general. Some guiding questions:

What are your thoughts on empathy? Is it bad to empathize with people whose feelings are harmful to others? Or is it generally good to want to listen to all sides of an argument, even if some sides might be questionable?

Is the world a better place when we walk a mile in each other's shoes, or is it wise to be selective in who we give our empathy to? How far do we let ourselves go?

- Sticky Notes


Dear Post-it,

This episode was really really thought-provoking and incredibly interesting. Listening to both interpretations catches you in a tough position. On one hand, Hanna's interpretation did make me feel almost sorry for Jack. But then, of course, you listen to Lina's interpretation, and it makes so much more sense. By the end, I was frustrated. I'm a very empathetic person. It's one of my favorite qualities about myself. But I'm also very socio-politically active, and I tend to be very angry towards people who do bigoted, racist, and misogynistic things.... like Jack and many other incels do. How could I find myself feeling sympathetic toward him? Does that make me any less a part of the fight against hatred? Or does it just make me a contributing factor? Am I a bad person for feeling bad for someone who does bad things? 


Empathy is a crucial part of humanity. I think the things that Hanna said about empathy being the solution to the world's problems may still be very true. And I also don't think that empathy is dying... I don't even think we need to be selective about who we give it to. But there is a difference between empathizing with someone, and agreeing with and/or supporting them. 

I think it is good to empathize with people, but not necessarily with their opinions. We should always be open to listen and consider someone else's point of view, and we should always respect them because they are a human being, and they deserve that. But you don't have to empathize to the point that you agree with them or their opinions. 

I do not feel guilty for empathizing with Jack, because I know how it feels to be rejected, and I can imagine how it would hurt to feel like you don't deserve love, or to have such low self-confidence. But I don't think that lashing out at women is the solution to that problem. 

That's the kind of empathy that I think helps solve the world's problems. If we refuse to see things as more than black and white, if we refuse to be kind to even our enemies, we'll never really get anywhere. When we see things only our way, and anyone else as an adversary, we create a lot of anger that tends to compound on itself. When people are willing to reach across the board and listen to the other side, that's when doors open to change hearts.