Myth of Empathy

… or, perhaps we know it better as the “Tepa Selira” culture, that sometimes we need to feel the pain of others, which has been taught by our elders from one generation to another, and finally becoming part of our own beliefs.

Couple of days ago, as I enjoyed dinner with all staffs from work, including my Japanese boss, he asked me “How long does it take from your home to the office, especially morning time?” I know the reason behind this question –my terrible record of punctuality– so I decided to give him false answer and at the same time begging for his empathy. I said, “Around 45 minutes to 1 hour, and I use a motorbike..” (on reality I need only 20-30 minutes).

He replied, “What?” (and I feel very happy instantly because I thought, “yes! he feels my pain!”) .. but then he continued: “Very fast indeed!” (and I feel sick, now I hope all these food in my stomach to remain where they belong) ..

I don’t recall the exact expression on my face, all I know the words coming out from his mouth made me feel worse.. He kept on saying, “Every morning I have to leave my apartment at 6 AM, and spent almost 2 hours to reach the office. My wife and kids are still sleeping, so I said goodbye to my pretty dog. At night, I usually have dinner with customers, and then go to karaoke, so I arrive at 2 or 3 AM, and everyone already sleeping, so I can only said hello to my pretty dog.. On Saturday and Sunday, I play golf..

. . .

I was begging for his empathy now it’s the other way around. I said to myself not to repeat the same mistake, and will not beg for anyone to feel sorry for me. If I want something (such as salary raise), I have to proudly show my achievements at work, and then I can fight for what I must receive.

This is also something that I will teach my son. The culture of tepa selira is a good thing as long as you complete it with correct implementations. In my own personal case, I might have implemented it wrongly and used it to persuade my boss, which obviously didn’t work.

So maybe we all should stop feeling sorry for ourselves and do something else valuable instead.

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