I've learned to be [slightly] more empathetic in the past few years, by studying a friend who has great empathy. For me it's about wanting to know how another person is feeling, and finding out by asking questions and looking at body language, tone of voice and reading between lines.
At the same time, experience is necessary for true empathy I think. Otherwise we don't recognize what's going on with the other person. Maybe this is why so many young people lack empathy - they lack experience.
Jesus' major contribution was his emphasis on forgiveness.
We're born with mirror neurons. When we recognize pain in another, the mirror neurons light up, so it's like their pain is happening in our brain.
"How do you teach that without a common model?" - it's not too hard, it's just [perhaps] never been done. I would love it if you could put some outline ideas together, and I can work them up with some assistance from others and stick them on my website. I do get what you're talking about.
I didn't realize that we're hard-wired for forgiveness as well. Forgiveness comes under the Golden Rule I believe - in mathematical models, known as "Generous Tit-for-Tat". Tit-for-Tat with forgiveness so that people can move on from destructive cycles of conflict. Forgiveness in ourselves raises the standard of behaviour that we can expect from others. This is why it contributes to social cohesion I believe. We can look at these things from a brain level or a social level, or both, depending on what's most useful. Atheists do love to have rational answers, and that's a good thing.
Certainly, both forgiveness and empathy are person-centred and pro-social - positive social behaviours that help everyone get along well.
Just a little thing - "practical empathy". A paragraph is all that's needed.
Forgive me for hijacking the column.
"if its not nurtured it corrodes." - we can forget that we're essentially the same as other people. Forgiveness and empathy go together. We can say "yes, we all make mistakes, and we all need to be given the chance to earn forgiveness".
Any ideas, chuck 'em my way.
Simon, a key point about Jesus. At the crucial moment, when he was up on that cross, HE did not forgive anybody. He asked GOD to forgive everybody.
I'd say it amounts to the same thing - or it's even more generous.
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