What Does The Empathy Symbol Stand For?
The Empathy Symbol stands for 2 “sides” reaching out to each other, and opening up to try to truly understand the other’s experiences and feelings. It could be 2 groups of people: men and women, blacks and whites, Jews and Muslims, fundamentalist Christians and atheists, Israelis and Palestinians, gays and straights, old and young, able-bodied and disabled, immigrants and native-born, and so on; or it could be 2 individuals: spouses, neighbors, co-workers, etc.
The Original Empathy Symbol, created in 1973
People have asked about the origins of the empathy symbol. I was a college student, active in the anti-Vietnam war movement. I was contemplating the peace symbol I was wearing, when suddenly the idea for the empathy symbol popped into my head, full-blown. It felt as though it had been given to me, and I have felt spiritually charged to bring it to the world ever since. Deb Ellsworth
Featured Empathy Promoter
Michele Borba has written a powerful new book about the decline in empathy in our children, and what to do to reverse that. Have you seen all the “selfies” that young people post on social media these days? That’s what the title refers to, and she says it directly relates to the 40% drop in empathy that researchers have seen over the last 3 decades. “Self-absorption kills empathy, the foundation of humanity, and it’s why we must get kids to switch their focus from ‘I, Me, My, Mine’ to ‘We, Us, Our, Ours.'”
As I read this book, I marked page after page to come back to. It is rich with insights and ideas. Let me share some of Borba’s wisdom here:
“Above all, remind your child: ‘Just like when you practice guitar, soccer, or your multiplication tables, the more you work at being kind, the kinder you’ll be.'”
“We live in a plugged-in culture. The single best predictor of healthy emotional interaction is a lot of face-to-face communication… Staring at computer screens, texting, tweeting and IMing do not teach kids their emotional ABCs. … The average eight- to eighteen-year-old is plugged into a digital media device about seven hours and 38 minutes a day.”
Borba discusses extensively how parents can foster empathy, and it is clearly parents who are the driving force here. In a study of people who rescued Jews from Nazis, the most determining factor was that their parents instilled in them “a strong identity based on caring values and an ethic of social responsibility.” She cites another study that found “children whose parents used induction–who discussed how a child’s misbehavior made them, the parent, feel–showed higher levels of empathy, perspective taking, and prosocial behaviors than kids whose parents relied heavily on power-assertive discipline such as taking away privileges, or on physical punishments like spanking.”
Borba has tons of practical advice, for both parents and teachers, on how to help kids be more empathetic (something that she says is not well-valued today in our culture of promoting self-esteem and achievement), including reading more, making and modeling kindness as a family and classroom value, helping children learn self-regulation, and giving children more opportunities for open-ended free play with a variety of friends.
Please read this book. It is important, today more than ever.
NEW! FREE Empathy Promotion items!
After the U.S. election, empathy seems to be needed now more than ever. We want to do our part to help spread the value of empathy. We will send you free: bumper stickers (tell us how many you want), 12 adhesive stickers of the empathy symbol, and/or 10 buttons. Use the contact page to send us your address and tell us what you would like. If you’d like to include a statement about how you want to spread empathy, or what a more empathetic world would mean to you, or other feelings on the subject, that would be lovely. Thank you for helping to make the world a more empathetic place!
USING THE EMPATHY SYMBOL
Jonathan says: It really means a lot to me and speaks for my morals and outlook on life.
David G. proudly shows his commitment to empathy.
Amanda says, “I love this movement. I am an introverted person by nature and though I consider myself considerate, empathy isn’t second nature for me. That is why I chose to have a permanent reminder that I need to try to see the world through others’ eyes. It’s my feather 🙂 ”
Nils says, “I got my empathy symbol tattoo almost two years ago. the symbol is part of a bigger tattoo …. I also got the symbol on my bicycle . 😉 Greetings from Germany.
Kristeena says: I am from San Antonio and got this while visiting Los Angeles. I’m a counselor who works with at risk youth and Empathy is my life.
Katie says ” I got this done in August because I wanted to remind myself to be more empathetic and also because I wanted to educate people about empathy and what it’s all about. The empathy symbol is on my pinky. ”
Tyler says ” This tattoo reminds me everyday to be more understanding of others and hopefully live in a world where everyone can empathise with each other.”
James is proudly displaying his new tattoo that says, “Humility, Empathy, Respect”
My name is Fernando and I’m a psychiatrist here in Brazil. I always loved the definition and the discussion about empathy. I also think the whole world would be better if everyone simply started exercising empathy everyday.
Ronda says, “Thank you for doing what you do. I talk about this all the time and couldn’t wait to get my tattoo to be able to spread the love. “
Nathan says “Thanks for the inspiration”
I got a tattoo of the empathy symbol both to remind myself of a humongous part of me as well as to educate others on empathy. Empathy has played a huge role in my life. Without empathy, I wouldn’t be able to help out so many people on a daily basis as I do now. It’s truly a vow to always try my hardest to understand others.