History & Culture

America’s Strength – Empathy and Heart

empathy

Careless, carefree, careworn. Interesting words that miss the point. Studies, polls, posts, news, and social interactions reveal something amiss, more than politics. We tilt away, not toward. We accuse faster than excuse, fault rather than forgive. Historically, faith, family, and local connections bound Americans together.

Empathy was our hallmark, our strength. Today, we fray and need restoring.

Studies note American empathy in decline, but something else is happening.

Individually and as a nation, we seem to be hardening our hearts. Most of us feel it, even if we resist it. The sense is that we are devolving into bubbles, littler modular versions of America – just the version we want to inhabit – not that big, beautiful, diverse, historic, risky, idealistic America of our past.

That all-in, everyone-counts, give-and-forgive, get-up-and-get-on-with-it America makes some uncomfortable because open-heartedness makes us vulnerable. Outside the bubble, we get challenged, forced to defend, not sure we can hold our own, not sure anyone wants to hear our views, not sure anyone appreciates what we appreciate, and – in the end – not sure of ourselves.

The comeback, “Of course, I am sure of myself,” followed by why others are wrong, confirms the power of the bubble. That is the problem; we empathize within our bubble, not beyond it.

Yet America has always been that powerful force of heart, unwilling to be defeated, transcending difference, able to reach up and out, unlike any other nation – because that is who we are, idealists who reach out, invite others in, recognizing their value, causing them to recognize ours.

You will, about now, say something like, “Nice words, but not tracking history.” Only, if you will look over one shoulder with me, I am. Listen to our founders, leaders of all kinds, those who have come, who have written about us, who have marveled at America’s promise.

From Lafayette and de Tocqueville to Emerson, Lincoln, Truman, and MLK, America has been a place of engagement and elan, courage and resilience, audacity to dream, tenacity to work, ability to pull from the fire what others thought lost – when we resolve to do so.

Wrote Marquis de Lafayette, “The good fortune of America is closely tied to the good fortune of all humanity,” and “pride of my heart, to have been one of the earliest adopted sons of America.”

Wrote Alex de Tocqueville, “America is great because she is good,” and “the greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but in being able to repair her faults.” Ralph Waldo Emerson: “America is another name for opportunity, our whole history appears like a last effort of divine providence on behalf of the human race.”

Abraham Lincoln pulled us to our height: “This nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Harry Truman reminded us: “America was not built on fear, America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.”

And defending the American Dream, Martin Luther King intoned: “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir … the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” adding “With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discord of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.” His belief in the dream never faltered, as he reminded us – like Lincoln – why and to what we aspire.

America enlightened the world on individual rights and equal opportunity, fighting to make these ideals real. We saved the world in two world wars, left a modest plaque “in peace for all Mankind” on the moon.

We saved ourselves and the nation’s soul in a civil war that left no American unscared. We built an economy that revolutionized science, medicine, aviation, transportation, communication, and – in a word – opportunity; we chased the future, defined it.

To freedom, democracy, and free markets, we have given everything, generous with resources and inspiration, matched only by heart wherever and whenever needed. As individuals and as a nation, we give more each year than any nation on earth, asking little.

So, now we come back to this lack, this pocket of self-absorption, this moment in our history when we seem – as occasionally happens – to be less caring and more despairing, more distracted by fear than fortified by pride, more willing to divide, disparage and complain, than to sit up straight, review who we are, and come out of the bubble.

And what does “coming out of the bubble” mean? It means daring to be strong, magnanimous without hesitation, full of faith, forgiving of neighbors, empathetic, not indifferent, educating from the heart, generous without reluctance, intrepid without intimidation, confident in who we are – individually and as a nation.

It means courage to listen, tapping into the power of patience, tackling disunity – and turning it, like a big ship under full sail, into the wind – creating unity and strength from empathy and heart. This is who we are, We Americans. We are not so much careless, carefree, or careworn – as caring. When we restore ourselves to ourselves, we will be unmatched.

Now is time.

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Becky
2 months ago

I am not afraid. I have not forgotten what it means to be an American. One who loves the freedom to choose how they will live. One who respects good and true thinking and decision making. One who unabashedly loves this country for all the GOOD it has doled out to the world and mankind.
I am, as so many are, merely tired out by all the insanity, meanness, and flat out EVIL the Left displays several times daily.

Last edited 2 months ago by Becky
Joseph Yarina
2 months ago

Wonderfully written Mr. Charles, I would like to add a little more, please bare with me as we are in trying times.
Let me start by what one of the greatest leaders of our time here in America stated, it seems that his message fell on deaf ears and was misunderstood. That seems to be a problem that human beings have. A quote from Martin Luther King, that a man would not be judged “ not by the color of his skin but be judged by the content of his character”.
Did anyone in our communities even understand or ask the question?
What is ” Content of Character “? The content of character is a set of classical human virtues above all. There are four cardinal virtues ( from the early Greeks) two more where added by the Holy Roman Catholic Church. The following virtues are listed in order: magnanimity, humility, prudence, courage, self-control, and justice. I just list a basic definition of each virtue. Lots of books have been written on the subject. Magnanimity– striving for greatness, Humility– the state of being humble. not proud or h, spirit of serving, humility leads to magnanimity. Prudence – ability to govern and discipline oneself by use of reason, Courage– mental or moral strength, to venture ( to undertake risks and danger) and withstand danger, fear and difficulty, Self-control-restrain exercised over one’s own impulses, emotions or desires, Justice-the maintenance or administration of what is just.
Deserving what is due to someone. Seems to me at this time in America, there are a lot of leaders that are not virtuous. As a result we suffer grievously as a nation on all levels of life. We need to understand as the Fore Fathers of our great nation understood. A the core of life you must practice and embrace the cardinal virtues in day to day living. If not we will decay as a Nation and as a People. The solution is simple but only a few dare to do what’s right.
You’re article was very refreshing and up lifting and focused on much needed encouragement.
Thank you Robert B Charles,
Joseph

RBC
2 months ago
Reply to  Joseph Yarina

Joseph, that was – as I read and reread your beautifully written response – poignant and accurate, insightful and a point I did not make. You are right, these values which underscore the expectations not only of King but of the Founders, that we would be a virtuous, moral, responsible, and character-full, y our founding Christian-value-centered nation, is key. Thank you, and for the grace with which you offered that addition. You are right, of course. Thank you.

David Spade
2 months ago

I like the term shown in this article: “pocket of self-absorption”. There are those who live there, and then live their lives to criticize all that is good about America. They need to wake up (or “woke”) to the reality of life in this great country which shows that economic freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of association are what we all are about. It is open to everyone of every race, religion and creed. Those who oppose this and people living in their own self-absorbed world are the naysayers who promote the Marxist ideology of the leftist in all levels of government. I would also guess that the liberal Marxist college professors are the ones who profit by their lies and innuendos….you know the ones who want to gain some relevance in their otherwise sad and pathetic lives. They are the ones who want to divide America with their leftist rants. The people need to call them out for what they are and what they are not.

PFArizona
2 months ago

Fabulous article! “

Harry Truman reminded us: “America was not built on fear, America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.”

I am so disgusted with the Biden Administration and DC Democrats’ Fear Tactics to control Americans. FDR: We have nothing to Fear, but Fear itself. Democrats: STOP intimidating Americans with your attempts to take over State Election laws, PRO Act, Packing Supreme Court, Impeachment of a President, FBI door busting Republicans, DOJ intimidation of State election audits, Threatening Supreme Court Justices, CRT in our Schools, COVID fears to distract from the Open Border Alien COVID carriers, INFRASTRUCTURE BULL (Bill) with Middle Class taxes that will devastate our Country.

WE ARE BETTER THAN ALL THAT. SO STOP, JUST STOP WITH THE FEAR!

RBC
2 months ago
Reply to  PFArizona

You are so right, thank you!

J. Farley
2 months ago

Yes we have hardened our hearts as a Country, people who loved God, Flag, and Country are watching it be destroyed before our very eyes. People who come to this country legally have came here to be part of and help make America grow and prosper and enjoy our freedoms, but that has changed since 9-11, while most that come hear legally that still holds true. What’s changed is we have more that are coming illegally that are only coming to reap and rape America of our WEALTH as a nation, they could care less about GOD, FREEDOM AND OTHER BASIC RIGHTS, they in fact would rather live in a society where the government makes decisions for them, (the great American free lunch) and the power hungry left (Demonrats) does nothing to stop it, because the end justifies the means.
Others out right hate freedom for others because they fell that only they should rule( the Bin Laden’s of the World )
I do not hate people because of the color of their skin, where they are from, or the God they choose to worship, I do hate people that fell they are superior to me and wish to make a slave and not a citizen.
The great American experiment is about over, unless major changes happen.

Joy
2 months ago

Beautifully stated. We have forgotten who we are – one nation, under GOD… let’s let God lead our hearts, Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Let’s get back on track . Praying for our Nation.

RBC
2 months ago
Reply to  Joy

One Nation Under God, perhaps the most compelling line of all – thank you, Joy!

Patriot Will
2 months ago

Yes, a strong America is both positive and empathetic, full of patriots who believe in the American Dream. Yes, capitalism and free enterprise are open to all Americans. The main reasons many people throughout the world want to come to America are for the freedoms and opportunities. Indeed, America needs to remain a proud nation. Of course, no country is perfect, but America is an inspiration and hope to all people who value hard work and honesty.

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