The Moment of Dawn, an Excerpt
November 13, 2012 by

Last week, I switched gears to read about empathy with the eyes of a researcher. Looking at experimental studies in Social Psychology, I read about the ways that empathy fosters understanding, compassion, and the desire to help others. The primary message in these articles focused on the “in-group,” which refers to people with whom you identify. For example, if I see a graduate student struggling with feeling overwhelmed, I might naturally feel more compassion than if I see a professor struggling with the same thing.

Overall, the research shows that we are more willing to help others if we identify with them in some way. So, what does this finding mean for people who are different who are different from us? Well, I found that my therapeutic training came to mind. As a therapist, we repeatedly see people with whom we appear to have nothing in common. Yet, we were trained to look underneath the surface to find the common ground that naturally allows empathy to grow.

I want to share an excerpt from The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo:

A Rabbi asks his students, “How do you know the first moment of dawn has arrived?”¬†After a great silence, one pipes up, “When you can tell the difference between a sheep and a dog.” The Rabbi shakes his head no. Another offers, “When you can tell the difference between a fig tree and an olive tree.” Again, the Rabbi shakes his head no. There are no other answers. The Rabbi circles their silence and walks between them, “You know the first moment of dawn has arrived when you look into the eyes of another human being and see yourself.

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