What Is Sympathy? A Compassion Essay Example

Empathy is the awareness of others feelings and perspective; and it is the key to understanding emotion. Humans are able to share their thoughts, recognize emotion, and react based on those feelings. Empathy also allows people to show compassion for others and to forgive others for the actions that they had done. A main lesson that a reader learns in the novel To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, is the lesson of empathy. Atticus Finch, a character in the book, expresses this theme of empathy when he is talking to his daughter, Scout. He’s says to Scout, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view--… --until you climb into his skin and walk around in it" (Lee 39). This quote explains to the reader and especially Scout, that in order to judge someone he or she must first understand what the other person is going through and what they experience. This lesson can also be learned in the essay titled, “The Necessity of Compassion,” through a little boy named Kevin Myer’s story and his mother. In the essay the boy learns the lesson of compassion that has helped him to live a more fulfilled life. In addition, this theme of understanding is also learned by readers in the short story, “Thank You, Ma’am,” by Langston Hughes. The story portrays the unusual trust between a boy, Roger and an old woman of the name of Mrs. Jones, at the time when the boy tries to steals her purse and fails. These readings emphasize the purpose of empathy, which is something humans need in their lives so they can understand others’ perspectives through the expression of compassion and forgiveness.

Throughout the story, Atticus and Calpurnia, the Finches housekeeper, both try to give wisdom to Scout about understanding the reasons for why people act the way they do, like Walter Cunningham and his eating style. The reader firsts sees Scout as non-empathetic towards Walter, the son of the very poor Cunningham family, and his manners. Calpurnia, as Scout’s female influence, tells her “there’s some folks who don’t eat like us...but you ain’t called on to contradict ‘em at the table when they don’t” (Lee 32). Throughout the book, Calpurnia and Atticus both try to help Scout develop empathy, but it is seen that Scout still needs to learn how she should judge others; since she is still a young kid and has not experienced the world and the people in it very much. However, Scout does learn empathy through the punishment that Jem receives for damaging Mrs.Dubose’s, a bitter old woman who lived down the street, flowers. Even though, Mrs. Dubose treated both Scout and Jem so badly, by bad mouthing them and Atticus, the kids didn't realize that Mrs. Dubose was also going through hard times of getting over her addiction of morphine. However, after she died there was a lesson that was learned that Atticus revealed to the children. “I wanted you to see what real courage is,instead of getting the idea that courage is man with a gun in his hand” (Lee 149). The lesson that Atticus teaches Jem and Scout is in life, in order to have courage, you don't need to have physical courage or hardships, it can come within and to have compassion for those who need it, and courage can come from depositing a popular opinion. With this lesson coming from the events of Mrs. Dubose, Atticus also explained to them what was going on with Mrs. Dubose and that there was a reason behind the way she acted, since she was trying to quit her addiction with morphine. To conclude, Atticus gives valuable pieces of advice that can be learned by the reader through Scout and the lessons that she learns from the interactions between Mrs. Dubose and Walter Cunningham .

In the essay from This I Believe, “The Necessity of Compassion” by Kevin Myers, it explains how hard life was for Kevin and his family, especially his mother, and how after all of the pain of his childhood, he still learned how to have compassion. Even though they didn’t have much of money and even family support, their mother still taught her kids the value of compassion and how it can help them to live a proper and fulfilled life. Kevin needs this lesson of empathy since he fights before he has even thought about his actions, especially when someone is disrespecting their parent, One day she and I stood on the sidewalk waiting for the welfare office to open; two men drove by in a work truck and yelled, “Get a job!” I was maybe seven years old, but I was so filled with rage that I knew I could have killed those men with my bare hands.” When the men in the truck said something degrading towards his mother, all Kevin could think of doing was to attack them. However, the mother teaches her son that he should understand the situation from the men’s perspective, like the mother explains, “She told me that I should have compassion for those men because they didn’t understand the pain they caused a small boy. She told me that if I couldn’t forgive them that I risked becoming like them.” The lesson that the mother teaches her son helps him to view people's actions the right way by understanding the reason for why people do the actions that they do. Kevin learns that even during the hard times of his life, he should still have the capability of understanding situations from others point of view. In real life circumstances, this lesson is displayed in even the toughest of times, when people should especially have compassion for everyone because people don’t know what other people are experiencing for themselves. In addition, Kevin, even though he didn’t know it at the time, realizes the advice that his mother gave him as a child, actually helped him out throughout his life. He states in the essay “Her determination gave us a better quality of life, but learning compassion raised her spirit above the cruelty and pettiness of those who made her life so much harder than it needed to be.” This realization teaches the reader and Kevin that to have a more purposeful and better quality of life, they need compassion for other people. Though To Kill a Mockingbird teaches the readers about empathy, the essay “The Necessity of Compassion” by Kevin Myers, also explains that in order to live a life of worth, people need to have compassion for other people.

The lesson of understanding others perspective can also be learned in other stories, such as “Thank You, Ma’am” by Langston Hughes. In the story, the reader is taught forgiveness through the unfortunate events of an old woman and a boy. After the boy, Roger attempts to steal a woman’s purse, she takes him to her house to get cleaned up instead of turning him into the police, “‘Um-hum! And your face is dirty. I got a great mind to wash your face for you.’ The woman had to stop and listen to the boy to realize why he stole the purse, which was to get something that he didn’t have or could never get. In’t you got nobody home to tell you to wash your face?” “No’m,” said the boy. “Then it will get washed this evening,” said the large woman starting up the street, dragging the frightened boy behind her.” The actions taking by Mrs. Jones in order to help him out, expresses the lesson of forgiveness, because at first she thinks of Roger as a thief. However, once she realizes that he actually doesn’t have a family of his own to take care of him, Mrs. Jones takes the boy home with her to show Roger that she cares and that she is willing to help him get clean and fed. As well as the forgiveness that the woman shows the boy, she also teaches him how to not judge someone before he got to know someone. When at Mrs. Jones’s house, the boy is told that she has done things that she is ashamed of as well, “‘I have done things, too, which I would not tell you, son — neither tell God, if he didn’t already know.” Mrs. Jones telling the truth about her past shows that even though she might not seem like it, she also made mistakes in her past, which results in her being aware of what Roger is experiencing. Mrs. Jones’s past makes Roger have empathy for her because he recognizes that she also made bad decisions in her past years and he realizes that she too has felt what he is feeling. Lastly, Mrs. Jones goes into the other room not knowing what Roger will do or if he will just run away. “Mrs. Jones got up and went behind the screen. The woman did not watch the boy to see if he was going to run now, nor did she watch her purse which she left behind her on the day-bed. But the boy took care to sit on the far side of the room where he thought she could easily see him out of the corner of her eye, if she wanted to.” This scene shows that Mrs. Jones, who let a stranger into her house, now trusts and forgives him for attempting to steal her purse. Additionally, Roger doesn’t try to run or steal from her, and he knows that he has gained her forgiveness and trust, and he doesn’t want to risk that. Now that Roger has gotten to know Mrs. Jones truly as a person, he regrets that he tried to steal her purse in the first place. Roger is also appreciative towards her for not turning him in and for letting him come into her house and be able to clean himself up. The lesson of forgiveness, is taught through the short story of “Thank You, Ma’am” by Langston Hugh by the actions of Mrs. Jones and Roger understanding each other once they have gotten to know each other.

Ultimately, an important lesson of empathy is taught by Atticus to Scout and additionally the readers of To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. However, understanding what people go through can also be seen in the essay of “Necessity of Compassion,” which is about a boy who learns compassion from his mother through unfortunate, but teachable, events. Furthermore, knowledge of forgiveness can also be seen in the story “Thank You, Ma’am” by Langston Hughes, when a boy tries stealing from a woman and in the end she forgives and trusts him and teaches him the value of judging people after they get to know them. The lessons that characters such as Scout, Jem, Kevin, and Roger have learned in these readings demonstrate the need for empathy, understanding, compassion, and forgiveness in order to be a proper citizen in society. With these lessons of empathy a person’s life will become more fulfilled and perhaps he or she will be able to show empathy towards people instead of judging or even hating others before they know the person.


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