Sunday, February 10, 2008


Chinese New Year twinkle red lights decor - “May you grow up to be righteous, may you grow up to be true. May you always know the truth and see the lights surrounding you. May you always be courageous, stand upright and be strong. May you stay forever young.”

One man was annoyed at his sentimental wife's constant sniffling as she watched a touching movie on the television. "For goodness' sake," he scolded, "why is it you cry about the imaginary woes of people you've never met?"

"For the same reason you yell and scream when a man you don't know scores a goal," she said.

That reason, of course, is that they identify with the person or the event. The word "identify" originally comes from the Latin root "idem," which means "same." When we identify with someone, we feel the same sadness or ecstasy the other feels and we understand another's plight.

There is no substitute for an ability to identify with others. One woman wrote me a letter about how she acquired this valuable trait. She said this:

"I was a registered nurse for quite a few years. I always thought of myself as an empathetic person, somebody who was able to reach out and understand what someone else was going through. Then I became a patient when I was diagnosed with M.S. and realized I never really knew the true meaning of the word "empathy." Unfortunately, it sometimes has to be learned and not taught.

"I found out just how much even a smile means to someone who is sick and so scared about what is happening in their life. [Because of M.S.], I found out how much it means to have someone take a few minutes and be friendly and just talk.... I hate the disease, but it has taught me so much!"

This woman had worked compassionately and professionally for years, but now there is a whole new dimension in her dealing with patients. She identifies with them. She knows how they must feel and responds differently. And she has become a better nurse (and person) because of it.

You may never treat hospital patients, but is there anyone in your life who would not benefit from your ability to identify with their pleasures and pains, their wild dreams and dashed hopes?

The ability to identify with others is a trait that, with practice, can be learned. Employers and employees are valued more highly when they possess it. Family and friends create more intimate relationships when those bonds are built around an ability to truly identify with one another.

Lord Chesterfield said, "You must look into people, as well as at them." It is a rare friend who has cultivated the ability to clearly see inside others and, thereby, identify with them. But it is a necessary part of an effective and happy life.

From Lifesupport.

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