Apr 02, 2014 0 Share

Having Empathy

Man comforting woman.

There is an old stereotype associated with people on the autism spectrum which states that we lack feelings or, more specifically, have no empathy. I cannot speak directly for others, but as for me, I can say that I do feel empathy. I am far from the cold, heartless robot some typically associate with people on the spectrum.

To me, being empathetic means understanding others’ feelings and viewpoints and being willing and able to help whenever the cause arises. I know I do this, and I believe just about everyone has this capacity within them. I also feel the world would be a lot better off if people allowed a more caring nature to guide them.

I have always had empathy, but the challenges presented by my inability to correctly interpret other people’s emotional states on a consistent basis make it hard, at times, for me to recognize when they are in distress. When someone directly expresses their feelings to me or I come to understand the problem, my empathy naturally shines through. As I have grown older and learned more about the world, I have also become increasingly aware of the need to be more empathetic on a much larger scale and the role I can play by donating my time and money to help others. Furthermore, I believe that showing people you care does not always require a tremendous amount of time and energy. It can be as simple as fulfilling the old adage, “See a need, fill a need.” 

For example, recently, my family and I were having lunch in a restaurant when I experienced such a moment. I heard a very young baby crying from a nearby table, and found myself immediately concerned. I asked my mother what could possibly be wrong, and she replied that the baby might just need some attention. The mother of the young baby, overhearing our conversation, indicated that she was fine. I was much relieved. During our lunch, the mother brought the baby over for a short visit and thanked me for my concern. The most significant aspect of this situation to me is that I recognized a possible problem and was willing to reach out to others.

Even this very column helps me to serve in an empathetic capacity. I have received messages from readers and have met people who have described their real life situations to me and ways my columns have helped or inspired them. I do understand many of the circumstances they find themselves in and what they are going through because I have experienced some of the same scenarios they have and can identify with them. I have also shared many of the same frustrations and know what it is like to hit a metaphorical wall.    

Caring about others gives me great satisfaction, and I am glad to be able to use my compassion to do some amazing things. I think we on the spectrum know that we can and do use our empathy to make good changes and leave positive impacts on the world around us; I am living proof of this.