|EQI.org Home | Caring
and Love vs. Empathy and Understanding
A near tragedy in South America
learned something interesting. And valuable. I have
learned it is possible to care about someone, yet not
feel empathy for them. I learned this in South America a
few years ago.
There was a father there, in a small town in Uruguay, who
wanted the best for his daughter. So he made her stay
home at night, even on weekends, and study. He would
punish her by isolating her from her friends if she
didnt get satisfactory grades in school. She wanted
to be a normal teenager. She wanted to talk to and hang
out with her friends. But he wouldnt listen to her.
I knew the
father. I knew he truly cared about his daughter. He
didnt want her to start drinking or using drugs. He
didnt want her to get pregnant. But one day the
daughter wrote this letter to me:
is something you should know. My father loves me but
he does not understand me. A year ago I was thinking
of killing myself. I know he wants the best for me
but he doesnt realize how much I suffer because
he wont listen to me.
were moments when all I could think of was killing
myself to stop the pain.
not talk to my father about this. Whenever I tried,
all I got was the same lecture. He got defensive. His
heart became like stone. I felt he didnt care
anything about my feelings. I felt worse after I
talked to him, not better.
know this father I know he would feel absolutely
devastated if he had lost his daughter. She was his only
child. When she did well in school, he was so proud of
her. And he felt proud of himself, for doing what he
thought was "right".
had experienced a bad childhood himself. His father drank
and had beat him, so he had run away from home and never
finished high school because he had to start working in
any job he could find to support himself.
He told me that he didnt think his parents cared
what happened to him. So he wanted the best for his own
daughter. It was obvious that he was very sincere. But he
wasnt skilled in the art of being a parent. He
And he nearly
lost what he loved most.
He would have
never forgiven himself Never-- if he had known
that he, yes, he who really believed he was doing the
best thing, was in reality the cause of her tremendous
suffering -- a suffering so intense she had taken her own
life to end it.
By the way, the daughter told me that the mother was
sympathetic to her situation with her father. It was the
mother who literally saved the girls life. But the
girl never told her mother how close she had come to
killing herself. She said I was the first person she ever
told and it was only because she felt she could trust me
and she knew I had helped other young people. I asked her
why she hadnt told her mother and she said it would
have hurt her mother too much. So she kept her feelings
and the sad truth about her pain, inside.
She is okay now. She is in studying in a university as
the father wanted. But still, this story haunts me. It
haunts me to know that this man, a man I had shared food
with in his own house, who had treated me well, and shown
me respect; who had welcomed me into his home and even
gave me a ride back to my hotel on his motorcycle
this man, who had such a painful life himself, came so
very close to losing forever this sensitive child he
needed so much.
And it haunts me to know that there are other girls and
other fathers, who I will never meet or even hear of,
whose fate will tragically end in a painful, and very
permanent, loss for all concerned.
sharing this story with you, and you sharing it with
others, we can save one life. Please do what you can to
S. Hein and the volunteers at EQI.org