Empathy and Vulnerability for Writing
A video posted by RSA explaining the differences between sympathy and empathy is making the rounds.
Often, I think of the importance of empathy for comprehending writing and writers, not just good classrooms. But the video reminds me what Ken Macrorie wrote in his epilogue to A Vulnerable Teacher:
The freedom to commit oneself, to create, is habitual in a person who has made himself vulnerable, open to his experience and that of others, in whatever form he may encounter it. The word vulnerable derives from vuln, Latin for wound. To become powerfully vulnerable is to expose oneself to possible wounds. One cannot create valuable things without risk. If he brings to the moment the best of his past experience, he comes on strong; and if he suffers then a wound, it will not disable him, because he is at his best, moving out of his full experience, healthy and strong. He is emotional as well as intellectual. He is growing out of himself and others.
People do their best to avoid contagions that can afflict someone emphatically open to others. Some days writers are not sure they have the strength to get their own work done. We generally don’t seek to become wounded. Yet if empathy fuels connection and we grow meaningfully from interactions between ourselves and others, we must be vulnerable to possible wounds. Writing is not merely for oneself but in connection (and often disconnection) with others. The vulnerable moment is not our full experience; a moment only possesses the possibility to become part of our fuller experience.
Use the moment to build health and strength, for vulnerability can be bravery.