Empathy in absence of judgment?

The political role of empathy sometimes comes in for criticism, particularly among conservatives. “I feel your pain” smacks of too much Clinton, too much Oprah. Empathy is dismissed as a source of naive, counterproductive public policy, which it can be.


But critics of such sentiments run headlong into the example of Abraham Lincoln, whom his contemporaries described as having an unusual talent for empathy. His hatred of slavery can be traced to early experiences of seeing people shackled in irons, which caused a visceral reaction. “That sight was a continued torment to me,” wrote Lincoln, “and I see something like it every time I touch the Ohio, or any other slave border. … I have no interest in a thing which has, and continually exercises, the power of making me miserable.”


by Michael Gerson