How does empathy effect integrity to values?

Being true to ourselves, authentic and living to our highest values can be challenging, especially when the events of the day or the choices made by others hurt us. When there is an event that takes place that doesn’t fit into our plans or idea of how it was going to go how do we remain faithful to the virtues and values we hold at the highest level?

We may want to ask ourselves what virtue do we need at this time to help us remain in integrity to ourselves?  What could I consider to help me be understanding? What would help me be more likely to show integrity?

One virtue that comes to my mind that is helpful in many situations to show integrity to our highest values is empathy. When we can think first of the other person and put ourselves in their shoes, walk on their path, see circumstances through their eyes, the choice we make in our response is more likely to be guided by our highest self.

For students in school, if you were to see someone cheating in school or a competition, how would you react? If we use empathy the question would be, “If I do not speak up what might happen?” If you witnessed a person being picked on, bullied or an aggressor going after someone unable to defend themselves, empathy would have us ask ourselves if I do not act with integrity and speak up for what is important to me, what will the results be.

At the same time if we saw a person left out of an activity or group empathy for the person would move us not to ignore the situation, but rather step in and do what is right.  We act with integrity when we speak up, help others and give of ourselves motivated by our empathy.

Of course, this works for adults also. When we take a moment to consider the other person’s point of view, how they may feel or their circumstances, it is more likely that we will respond to the event or situation with integrity to our values. Taking that stance can be a challenge, mainly if an incident affects our family or us that we would prefer not happen. Maintaining our peacefulness and that of those around us occurs when we live by the virtues kindness, consideration, and understanding.

Empathy is a stepping stone to staying true to ourselves and practicing integrity to who we are and want to be.

Reading, Understanding & Responding with Empathy

Awakening the gift of character, empathy, in our children and ourselves is a three step process. First, we must learn to read a person, their facial expressions, gestures and body language. We are looking to see if we see the signs of joy, sadness, frightened, surprise, disgust, frustration, disappointment. Once we identify a possible emotion, we move to step two. Now we will try to understand how they are feeling.

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Developing empathy in a social media world

There has been much conversation and even studies regarding the effect of social media on our ability to show or feel empathy for those around us. So far many of the studies have seen that both cognitive and affective empathy is improved with social media use. (Clinical Child & Family Studies, Utrecht University, Postbus 80140, 3508 TC Utrecht, The Netherlands). After reading several research studies on this subject, with all of them agreeing to this result I had to ask myself if the results were clinical or the real world. In fact, some even reference a “virtual empathy.”

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Gifts of Character: Empathy – The Definition

Each month we will discuss one life skill with all of our students. This month’s skill is Empathy. This life skill will be defined in the following ways for our students.

Young students: Empathy means: I can imagine how you feel!

Older students: Empathy means: Reading, understanding and responding to other people’s feelings.

We are not your typical after school activity, in fact, we are an education center, working with students on physical self-defense skills while empowering families to bring out the best in our children and ourselves – through the martial arts. We believe every child has 52 gifts in them already. They only need to be taught how to grow and use them in their life. Balanced Life Skills serves parents, teachers and students to reach that goal.

If you would like to see Joe Van Deuren and Balanced Life Skills at work, TRY CLASSES FOR FREE for 2 weeks.

Teaching children helpfulness is a boost to their self-esteem

During the month of August, we have talked to our students about the idea of charity, giving to those in need.  Already we have discussed giving others our treasures including clothes, toys, or other things that have been valuable to us and we now can pass on to others for their use. We also discussed giving of our talent to organizations that have specific needs. If I had knowledge and skills in a specialty area or an interest in a particular cause that I can find a way to help out.

Kids want to be helpful, and they are self-centered at the same time. Which one will you encourage?

However, for young people with limited treasures and talent, it is important for them to learn the joy of helping others and they can do that with their time. A child need only be themselves to bring joy to a senior who does not get out very often. They might just sit with them and talk, play games or read to them.  They may be able to offer help to organizations to cheer on or run with other children who have disabilities. Sharing themselves and their time by volunteering helps them to awaken the virtue of empathy and compassion.

The benefits of helping children learn about charity are many. There is an amazing thing about kids. They want to be helpful, and they are self-centered at the same time. Which one will you encourage as the parent or teacher? By setting the example and including them on our giving of time will feed the “I want to help” side. By giving them the opportunity to choose how they would like to help others we are slowing down the self-centered attitude that comes naturally and is encouraged by so much of the media today.

Giving our time, leading our children to do the same gives kids a powerful boost in self-esteem. They learn that it is not just about writing a check, but giving of themselves that can help make a difference in the community and world today.

Six Skills every child needs to protect themselves

There are six skills that I believe are necessary for every child to learn in a progressive manner, depending on their age that will both protect them from bullying and from being a bully.  In that all of us have the capability to be both – these 6 skills will be a protection to ourselves if we are targeted or if we have become aggressive.  Adult or child, it is likely that having a coach to work on these skills will be helpful.

What are the six skills?

  • Empathy
  • Assertiveness
  • Identifying social cues
  • How to be a friend
  • Self defense
  • Online safety skills

These six skills – and they are skills because they can be taught and we are not be able to turn it on / off at will – take time to develop and are best learned by seeing them modeled by our coach.  Parents – You are the Coach.  

None of these skills are going to be learned by a single sit down conversation where we tell our children what is expected from them or what they have to do.  All of the skills take time, and I suggest our 3 minutes a day concept.  Here is an example, using the very first skill listed, Empathy.

Respect, Empathy, Self-Control
Respect, Empathy, Self-Control

Empathy cannot be taught in passing.  Parent’s are concerned about a child when they have hurt the feelings of another person.  It is easy to say, “think about their feelings”, but for a child they are most likely thinking about their own feelings, so these words mean very little to them.

Empathy comes from the inside of a person – not from the words of others from the outside.  So we must begin by giving our child the words they need to describe their own feelings.   Those ‘emotion’ words must be taught and then used by parents and child in describing how they are feeling.  Doing this when our children are young and continuing will give them the start to a vocabulary to describe their feeling.  Then those feeling words can be applied to what we see is happening to others.  As they get older we can do more reflection with them.
In our class,  “The Truth About Bullying”   we will discuss each of the six skills and how to teach them to our children in more detail.  You will be really surprised at our definition and practice of Self Defense.  Come to our class on Saturday, September 27 at 10 AM or schedule Joe Van Deuren to present this information to your own parent group.