Empathy and Compassion Towards the Weaker Section

There are four related terms –

1. Apathy – Indifference

2. Sympathy – Kindness

3. Empathy – Experience

4. Compassion – Action

  • Apathy is the state of indifference or the state in which no emotion such as concern; care, motivation etc are shown. (Ignoring road accident by saying ye to chat rhta h)
  • Sympathy is an instinctive reaction to kindness that is momentary in nature. It is spontaneous and a real understanding of the problem is not there. (Noticing road accident and saying bahut bura hua bhai)
  • Empathy involves putting oneself in another man’s place to understand his pain and sorrow. It has both cognitive and emotional aspects. Understanding of the nature & intensity of the problem is there. Empathy is more sustainable than sympathy. Being empathetic involves a deep relationship than being sympathetic. Empathy is a stronger attitude than sympathy, hence it’s a better indicator of behaviour. (Crying after seeing a road accident and asking people to help because you are feeling the pain/emotions of the victim)
  • Compassion involves not only understanding but also a desire to help alleviate the suffering of other persons. The emphasis here is on the action. Having compassion for others requires one to put the other person first, imagine what the person is going through and then consider waves that can help people feel better. Compassion is an even better predictor of behaviour. Eg – Compassion is what made Mother Teresa leave her motherland and serve selflessly in Kolkata. (Calling ambulance and admitting victim of road accident in Hospital)

Need of Empathy and Compassion

  • To change bureaucracy with a colonial mindset Indian civil service (ICS) attracted intelligence and talent from British youth, yet they failed to look after the interest of Indians, why? They were intelligent but lacked ’empathy.’ at the same time, the British civil service manual/code of conduct lacked any directives in that regard. For ICS officers, public services meant ensuring the administrative, economic and strategic interests of the empire. Our bureaucrats have inherited this colonial legacy- hence we must make them empathize with the plight of the common man.
  • Empathetic officers are the need of the hour in modern-day administration targeted towards inclusive growth. Understanding problems and suffering become more enduring if we have empathy towards people in distress. Eg – Alex Paul Menon, Harsh Mander etc.
  • In developing countries there is always a greater chance of disconnect between bureaucracy and people as bureaucrats are vulnerable to getting trapped in the distancing confines of the power elites. This disconnect that exists between the policymaker and the people who bear the brunt of policies can only be removed through empathy and compassion.
  • Citizens do not approach the administration due to apathetic behaviour. Hence empathy in bureaucrats can motivate common people to reach out to public offices.

    How can we cultivate Empathy and Compassion?

    • Art, literature, and cinema – help us inculcate empathy. E.g., Satyajit Ray’s “Pather Panchali” realistically portrays poverty and rural India.
    • Common holidays– Eid, Diwali- people of all religions are given public holidays on these events. It should encourage them to participate in each other’s festivals.
    • Encourage Perspective talking, role-playing games, and putting yourself in the shoes of other people.
    • Visit slums and old age homes.
    • IAS probationers are sent to “Bharat Darshan” for a similar reason- to understand the diversity of India and grow compassion towards others.
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