Reflection: Radical Experiment in Empathy

First Watch this Video:

I have never truly understood ALL aspects of the wars in the Middle East and I’m even a military veteran. I also believe I have above average emotional intelligence, frequenting kindness, understanding, and empathy in my daily actions. However, I never had someone so radically prepare the ‘shoes’ and take me on a walking tour the way Sam Richards did in this video. He really helped lay the groundwork for ‘stepping outside’ of my own thoughts and preconceived notions, in regard to terrorists and the so-called ‘evil-doers’ many complain about in the United States. 

This video did make me angry. Not angry in the sense of American patriotism gone awry but in the sense of failing to ‘truly’ walk in the footsteps of Jesus, which is the foundation for which many Americans fervently wave flags, tailor laws, and justify actions on. How did, and do we still, continue to preach our Christian faith while treating others this way?  How do we walk with our Messiah when we can barely walk an inch with our neighbor? 

The exercise in this video also made me feel extremely sad. Sad for those, who are like me in many ways but just so happen to be born in a different country. Sad for the pain and suffering they endure because of greed and entitled comfort. In the present moment, the idea of self-awareness has been heightened. Feeling empathy has been something I am comfortable with and exercise, but true understanding practiced at the same level as this video is something I need to do more often.

In the Ted Talk, Sam Richards connects the American Christian ideals to militarization and infiltration into countries, seeking to use their resources. The notion of Christianity at its core is loving your neighbor and following the teachings of Jesus. When you mix the very definition of Christianity with the action of our government and the behaviors of patriotic Christian Americans, it raises a lot of questions and reservations to the authenticity of some people’s religious practices.  In the book Organizational Behavior: Bridging Science and Practice, cognitive dissonance is discussed and the effects it has on people. Cognitive dissonance is when someone has a mismatch between their belief and behavior (Bauer & Erdogan, 2018). This unflattering concept seems to be at the forefront of the American militarization rationale.

When it comes to the people who evangelize in foreign countries, like Afghanistan, one may say they believe in preserving the life of all people and also say they believe in humanitarian compassion and in charitable works. Then, in the same conversation support the war for oil and the degradation of Muslims. Aren’t they discrediting the Christian faith?

Perhaps not everyone is capable of being empathetic to other cultures. Or maybe some find it hard to empathize with a culture they don’t understand. In an article written by K. Cherry called the Importance and Benefits of Empathy, it said, “Empathy is not a universal response to the suffering of others.” (Cherry, 2018) This poses the question, as a society are we nurturing our new generations to have empathy for others and other cultures? Empathy needs to be at the helm of nurturing emotional intelligence or our society will continue to self-serve, which leads to self destruction.

If we struggle to have empathy for those who are suffering, how can we show empathy for the minor matters that come up day to day in the workplace?


Cherry, K. (2018). Importance and Benefits of Empathy. Very Well Mind.

Talya Bauer and Berrin Erdogan. (2018). Organizational Behavior: Bridging Science and Practice. Boston, MA: FlatWorld

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