The Case Against Empathy

Yeah, that’s not a typo. I’m about to tell you why empathy isn’t the tool it’s been cracked up to be. Maybe for no other reason than discourse and disagreement, I invite you to entertain the rest of this article. 

Keep in mind. I’m a fan of empathy. What does every Coach’s Prep practical class begin with? An exercise to develop empathy and emotional intelligence. Trust me. I’m challenged by what I’m about to say as much as anyone. 

Empathy is, in part, an act of understanding the perspective and plight of another. For a multitude of reasons this seems to be helpful interpersonally and for the general well being of a world where you’re not the only one living in it.  

An author named Rutger Bregman offers this challenge, though. Can you put yourself in someone else’s shoes? Likely, yes. Can you put yourself in the shoes of ten people? What about a hundred? A thousand? What about a billion people?

You see, empathy inadvertently creates an antagonist. Since we can only deploy empathy with this “spotlight” characteristic, there are automatically people left out of that spotlight. We can empathize with the Ukrainians, but to do so we make an enemy of the Russians. We can empathize with our political party’s plight, but not the other. 

Maybe it’s not the case that empathy is as negative as I’m making it sound, but rather that to master it we must know its limits. On the team at DEUCE and in my courses I often reference the Five Perceptual Positions framework that might do just that. 

In closing, I mention this brief case against empathy, not to throw it out all together, but to stir the pot. I want to grow our ability to see and connect with others and the proximity and intimacy required for empathy can run counter to the behaviors that humanity really needs. We’re prone to tribalism and tribalism is ripe where empathy thrives: the small individuals and groups that we can spotlight well enough to deploy empathy. 

Let’s strive to include empathy, but transcend it! It’s the only way in a shrinking world where humanity is connected beyond villages and small groups.

5/5/22 WOD


Complete 5 rounds for quality of:

6 Yates Rows
10 Hanging Knees to Chest

Then, AMRAP 8

8 Single Arm DB Rows
12 Plate Raises

Then, AMRAP 10

6 KB Swings (62/44)
2 Lateral Burpees Over The KB


Push Press

Complete 4 rounds for quality of:

8 Mcgill Bench Press
16 DB Pull Through 

Then, AMRAP 9

10 Ground-to-Overhead (95/65)
50 Double Unders