There’s a myth lots of people believe that some of us are born with certain character traits, while others lack them. The truth is that as humans, we’re all exposed to a unique set of experiences that shape us. These experiences and how we handle them define our characters and give us traits like empathy.
Empathy is the ability to feel compassion for someone else by putting yourself in their shoes. Often confused with sympathy, empathy is a whole different emotion.
It’s easy to “feel sorry” for someone else who is going through a difficult situation. You know they’re sad; you wish they weren’t, but you’re not sure how you can help. That is sympathy. As with someone dealing with the death of a loved one, you write them a condolence card, send flowers, and move on.
Empathy, on the other hand, is the human capacity and ability to understand what that person is feeling. Even if you’ve never gone through what they’re dealing with, you can imagine how you’d feel in their shoes.
As much as we’d like to think this is a common human emotion, the ability to empathize isn’t as universal as it should be. This lack of empathy is what causes people to focus on what’s “best for them” without considering the consequences.
What it Looks Like When Someone Lacks Empathy
The lack of empathy can come from an endless source of events in a person’s life. It’s not unusual to find people who can empathize in one area but not the other. For instance, some people find animal cruelty heartbreaking but don’t blink an eye at the news of human suffering, or vice versa.
Empathy can be learned by a person’s environment, and lack of empathy can be a coping mechanism. There are also neurological components that cause a person to struggle with empathizing.
But when a person doesn’t have this essential human skill, the results are frequently visibly apparent. Lack of empathy is often characterized by signs like:
- Isolation because you “don’t get” other people and find it hard to make and keep friends
- Difficulty communicating because you can’t get on the other person’s level, and you’re inadvertently offending them
- Career obstacles as other people with more “social intelligence” advance on the corporate ladder
Someone without empathy frequently will play the blame game, accusing others of being responsible for their mistakes. These are the kind of people who make false allegations to get attention without thinking through the consequences for the other individual.
When the accusation is of sexual assault or rape, the defendant must find a sex crimes attorney-at-law to protect them from punishment for something they didn’t do. But the accuser basks in the spotlight, unable to empathize with the innocent party.
Lack of empathy is a difficult character trait to break. If you can’t empathize with someone else, you don’t always realize you have a problem. And if you built this trait as a defense mechanism to protect your heart from pain, you consider it a strength.
But to get along with others and lead a full, happy life, empathy is a key component. If you struggle in this area, you should look for counseling and other ways to get help.
But if your loved one is the person lacking empathy, tread cautiously. They can hurt you without realizing it and without regard for your pain.