3 Poetry Books that Promote Empathy
The world needs empathy, now more than ever. Empathy helps us rise above our differences and encourages us to listen to others. It’s a skill, a value, and a trait we can nurture to increase our connection to other people. With empathy, we can strengthen emotional intimacy in our relationships by deeply caring about the feelings of our family and friends. We can also better communicate and understand people we may not agree with by using empathy.
While anyone can practice empathy, there are different degrees or levels of empathy. The amount of empathy we feel can vary depending on how open we are to others. There are also people who are hard-wired for empathy, and they use this special skill as a talent. Empaths are people who feel the emotions of others as if they were their own; they are like emotional sponges. While they may feel drained and overwhelmed after interacting with people, empaths are naturally sensitive, and this helps them become great listeners and healers.
Even if you’re not naturally an empath, you can still enhance your empathy. Deepening your compassion for others as well as listening to your intuition can help you embrace empathy. Reading books written by empaths or books that promote empathy can also strengthen your compassion toward others. If you garner the benefits of empathy, you will see better interpersonal relationships and greater fulfillment in your life. We’re all in this together: this journey called life. Empathy reminds us of our shared humanity and interconnectedness.
OLD SOUL LOVE BY CHRISTOPHER POINDEXTER
A self-proclaimed empath, Christopher Poindexter’s poetry is perfect for anyone wanting to develop their compassion and sensitivity. He posts on Instagram almost every day and writes about topics such as self-love, mental health, romance, sexual orientation, and emotions. His poetry collection, Old Soul Love, “is a combination of new, never-before-seen poetry, mixed in with some of Christopher’s most popular Instagram pieces, all of which explore the many shapes and forms of love. Unrequited love. Platonic love. Lost love. Self-love. And, for a lucky few humans: old soul love that seems to transcend even death.”
Here is one of Christopher’s well-known poems dedicated to the special souls known as empaths:
“here’s to the empaths.
to the emotional artists.
to the ones whose outlet
is simply feeling.
you are braver
than you know.”
THE PROPHET BY KAHLIL GIBRAN
The Prophet is a beautiful collection of 26 prose poems written by Lebanese-American poet and writer Kahlil Gibran. The poems feature a prophet known as Almustafa who imparts wisdom to the people in the city of Orphalese. Almustafa is admired by the townspeople for his teachings, and before he departs home by ship, they ask him to speak philosophically about life and death. The talks that he gives are arranged into sections in the book, each dealing with a specific topic, such as work, marriage, freedom, friendship, and beauty. Almustafa gives his poetic advice with compassion and empathy, and he also provides depth and insights into the complexity of being human.
Even though it was published in 1923, The Prophet is still one of the best-selling books of all time. There is even a feature film dedicated to the poetry of Kahlil Gibran with Liam Neeson playing the voice of Almustafa. Though the movie alters the book to create a more dramatic plot, the poems remain intact with gorgeous and colorful animations that celebrate the wisdom of Kahlil’s words.
The Prophet is a spiritual and timeless book. According to The New Yorker, “The Prophet has been recited at countless weddings and funerals. It is quoted in books and articles on training art teachers, determining criminal responsibility, and enduring ectopic pregnancy, sleep disorders . . . Its words turn up in advertisements for marriage counselors, chiropractors, learning-disabilities specialists, and face cream.” The Prophet is a book that offers guidance, hope, and wisdom for the challenging times the world is facing.
THE BIG RED BOOK BY RUMI
Rumi was a Persian mystical poet whose work is still immensely popular even though it was published hundreds of years ago. His poetry is both simple yet profound: a quality that is not easily found in poetry. The collection Rumi: The Big Red Book: Celebrating Mystical Love and Friendship is exactly what it sounds like: a huge red book that contains Rumi’s greatest poems. It is translated to English by Coleman Barks. You may have seen some of these poems on Instagram or Pinterest, as Rumi is one of the best-selling poets of all time.
Because Rumi’s poetry is intuitive and offers wisdom, insights, and guidance, it is the perfect book to read for those who want to deepen their empathy for themselves and for others. Here is a beautiful poem by Rumi about having compassion for yourself regardless of the feelings that appear. The more compassion we have for ourselves, the more compassion we can have for others, and empathy will naturally arise as a result. This practice is best done as a meditation, because then we can become open to allowing whatever arises in the moment without judgment. I know this is easier said than done, but that’s why it’s a practice.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Empathy is powerful because it softens our hearts and allows us to remain kind toward others. This kindness creates a ripple effect that impacts our communities and, essentially, the world. In her book The Empath’s Survival Guide, Dr. Judith Orloff writes that she believes empathy can heal the world: “[Empathy] catalyzes a compassionate evolution of humankind and a hope for us getting along in more meaningful ways as individuals and as a planet. Empathy will be the deciding factor between war and peace, between hatred and tolerance . . . Empathy is the game-changer. It is the trait that will ultimately save the world.”