A Thought About Empathy

Here is a lovely passage about empathy by Thich Nhat Hanh:


“When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce.

You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun.

You never blame the lettuce.

Yet, if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. 

But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce.

Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument.

That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding.

If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love and that situation will change.”

– Thich Nhat Hanh

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4 thoughts on “A Thought About Empathy”

  1. I’m trying to get my head around this one. I’m not sure if I agree. The blame part and argument yes but the not using reason. Hmmm. I’ll have to think about that. Not sure what”reason” means in this context. Do you think he means intellect or does him mean giving an excuse

    • Thank you Anna for your thoughts. I suppose when he talks about reason here, he speaks about it in the context of reaction to other. For example, we would not reason with the lettuce to try and change the direction that it is growing. Rather, we would love them through their difficulty, by trying to provide them with adequate light and sun in order for them to grow. When we think about our loved ones then, it is about the unconditional love and positive regard we can have for them despite their difficulties or ultimately, their choices. In some circumstances, that can be while in relationship to them, in other circumstances, that might need to be from afar.


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