In one of my university social work classes, there was an intense argument about nature vs. nurture: Is empathy innate or learned?
As I recall, I took the innate side of the argument then, but I’ve since changed my tune. I believe that empathy can and should be taught starting at a young age.
The Oxford Dictionary defines empathy as, “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another,” and Wikipedia notes, “One may need to have a certain amount of empathy before being able to experience compassion.” I think of empathy as the ability to recognize how another person feels and compassion as the drive help them feel better. Both empathy and compassion have been important parts of my life and I feel that they are two of the most crucial interpersonal skills I can pass on to my children.