Editor’s Note: Who is the wisest of them all? Who is more dedicated to your pleasure than anyone on earth? Who can help you when you’re going online for the first time to find love; or when your lover’s children hate you; or when you want to strangle your husband? Why, the Love Goddess, of course. She promises nothing less than celestial wisdom, heavenly sex, divine dating. Read on …
Zera is a goddess who fell in love with a gorgeous and glamorous god, Zero (not their real names). Zera, try as she might, felt isolated from this god, who was so worshipped by other goddesses and envied by other gods. Dazzling as he was, though, Zero couldn’t and wouldn’t connect with his lover. He didn’t hear her. He didn’t get her. If she felt other than what he wanted her to feel, then the hell with her. So finally, Zera left him.
Zero was a classic narcissist, and, as is the case with all narcissists, had zero empathy. Their story was on my mind when I read, on the front page of The New York Times the other day, the attempt by the Scarsdale Middle School and other schools across the country to teach empathy to students (Schools Teach Empathy). Empathy — the ability to perceive, understand, experience and respond to the ideas and emotional state of another person — may well be the ticket for keeping the alarming and increasing amount of school bullying, gossiping, hating and violence at bay.
Empathy isn’t merely a nice addition to one’s emotional repertoire; though a “soft” quality, it’s something that will maybe help make better citizens but isn’t necessary for the average Joe. It’s not just a way to get the entitled, the arrogant and the cruel to think twice before humiliating someone whose skin or clothes they don’t like, someone who is old or handicapped. No, my dear, violent mortals, empathy is way more important than that. Without it, to use the phrase from an old song, love is just a four-letter word.
How bad is narcissism? Freud thought it was so bad that it couldn’t be cured (it’s a moot point: Narcissists don’t often stay long enough in therapy to confront any of their issues, which issues, Freud added, were insurmountable anyway). Newer, non-Freudian therapies offer a better prognosis for these loveless creatures, but America seems to be awash in narcissism, so any attempt to teach empathy is a great thing. It may not start early enough, in middle school, to reach the deepest roots of the character disorder that is narcissism. But those who claim that empathy is for wusses, or that teaching it is not a good use of school time, clearly have not been in a relationship with a narcissist.
Those of you who have known what it feels like to be utterly shut out — just the way that lonely teenage girl, overweight or with a stutter or from a different country feels in a classroom full of “mean girls” (that new, almost cool term, for the pathetically unempathetic). You know what it feels like to find yourself profoundly alone — just as that boy with the pimples, or that kid with the short leg or the clubfoot does.
Parents are the ones who can most successfully prevent narcissistic kids, obviously. But if schools can help just one privileged, arrogant kid feel what it’s like to be laughed at, to be turned on, to be left alone at recess — and then see to it that another kid isn’t laughed at, turned on or left alone at recess — then two lives are changed. Not just because violence and bullying are reduced, not just because the old, the sick, the handicapped are treated kindly. It’s that we need more grown-ups who hear each other, get each other, love each other. Because without this thing called empathy, too many kids will grow up to be Zero.
Like all savvy goddesses, the Love Goddess has her own blog, which you can visit by clicking here.