Harmony Icon - Large - White Background

Ep. 5: Empathy: Too Little, or Too Much?

This sermon, “Empathy: Too Little, or Too Much?,” was originally delivered to the congregation of Harmony, a Unitarian Universalist Community, on March 5, 2017. It is published here with permission from the writer, with all rights reserved.

By Paul Smith

We often think of our capacity to experience the suffering of others as the ultimate source of goodness. Many of our wisest policy-makers, activists, scientists, and philosophers agree that the only problem with empathy is that we don’t have enough of it.

But new research makes the case that some of the worst decisions made by individuals and nations—who to give money to, when to go to war, how to respond to climate change, and who to imprison—are too often motivated by honest, yet misplaced, emotions, and specifically empathy.