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Empathy Produced Through the Suffering of Another

Knowing that my father had his own burdens, his own failings, allowed me to continue through what would otherwise have been unbearable…

Perhaps it was something in her voice that day, maybe it was the way everything shone and vibrated with the heat, but for the first time in a long time I lifted my eyes from the still empty basin and looked at her. Her own eyes were filling with water, tears that would never fall but hovered there, only inches from my own.

Suddenly my perception of the world shifted. I wasn’t the only person in the world who suffered…My sense of space and self lengthened and transformed, extended itself out the door and down the corridor, while at the same time staying present with me, with my mother, who, to my profound discovery, was suffering not just because of, but also for, me.

-Lucy Grealy, Autobiography of a Face, pp. 85-86

She had suffered. She had seen others suffer. Yet somehow she still didn’t feel empathy. It took her seeing someone suffer for her before she could feel empathy for others.

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