By David DeSteno
The New York Times
Originally published October 16, 2015
Here are several excerpts:
In both studies, the results were the same. Those who had faced increasingly severe adversities in life — loss of a loved one at an early age, threats of violence or the consequences of a natural disaster — were more likely to empathize with others in distress, and, as a result, feel more compassion for them. And of utmost importance, the more compassion they felt, the more money they donated (in the first study) or the more time they devoted to helping the other complete his work (in the second).
Now, if experiencing any type of hardship can make a person more compassionate, you might assume that the pinnacle of compassion would be reached when someone has experienced the exact trial or misfortune that another person is facing. Interestingly, this turns out to be dead wrong.
As a result of this glitch, reflecting on your own past experience with a specific misfortune will very likely cause you to under appreciate just how trying that exact challenge can be for someone else (or was, in fact, for you at the time). You overcame it, you think; so should he. The result? You lack compassion.
The entire article is here.