Posted by TerryS (188.8.131.52) on April 05, 2001 at 08:00:35:
One man was annoyed at his sentimental wife's constant sniffling
as she watched a touching movie on the television. "For goodness
sake," he scolded, "why is it you cry about the imaginary woes of
people you've never met?"
"For the same reason you yell and scream when a man you don't
know scores a goal," she said.
That reason, of course, is that they identify with the person or
the event. The word 'identify' originally comes from the Latin
root 'idem,' which means 'same.' When we identify with someone,
we feel the same sadness or ecstasy the other feels, and we
understand another's plight.
There is no substitute for an ability to identify with others.
Jeanne, a Life Support reader, wrote me a letter about how she
acquired this valuable trait. She wrote:
"I was a registered nurse for quite a few years. I always
thought of myself as an empathetic person, somebody
who was able to reach out and understand what someone
else was going through. Then, I became a patient when I
was diagnosed with M.S., and realized I never really knew
the true meaning of the word 'empathy.' Unfortunately, it
sometimes has to be learned and not taught.
"I found out just how much even a smile means to someone
who is sick and so scared about what is happening in their
life. [Because of M.S.], I found out how much it means to
have someone take a few minutes and be friendly and just
talk.... I hate the disease, but it has taught me so much!"
Jeanne had worked compassionately and professionally for years,
but now there is a whole new dimension in her dealing with
patients. She identifies with them. She KNOWS how they must feel
and responds differently. And she has become a better nurse
(and person) because of it.
You may never treat hospital patients, but is there anyone in
your life who would not benefit from your ability to identify
with their pleasures and pains, their wild dreams and dashed
The ability to identify with others is a trait which, with
practice, can be learned. Employers and employees are valued more
highly when they posses it. Family and friends create more
intimate relationships when those bonds are built around an
ability to truly identify with one another.
Lord Chesterfield said, "You must look into people, as well as at
them." It is a rare friend who has cultivated the ability to
clearly see inside others and thereby identify with them. But it
is a necessary part of an effective and happy life.
© 2001 Steve Goodier
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