The War for Kindness: Building Empathy in a Fractured World

Jamil Zaki

Why we love it: In this masterpiece, Jamil Zaki weaves together the very latest science with stories that will stay in your heart forever. If you’d like the world to be a kinder place, starting with your own capacity for empathy, read this book. You’ll never be the same. 

From page 15:
Humans evolved in an environment where exercise was constant and sustenance was scarce. In response, we developed a taste for fat, protein, and rest. Now many of us are inundated with fast food and rarely required to exert ourselves. If we allowed our instincts to take over, we could indulge ourselves into an early grave. But many of us don’t accept this; we fight to stay healthy, adjusting our diets and going to the gym because we know it’s the wise thing to do.

Likewise, even if we have evolved to care only in certain ways, we can transcend those limits. In any given moment, we can turn empathy up or down like the volume knob on a stereo: learning to listen to a difficult colleague, or staying strong for a suffering relative. Over time, we can fine-tune our emotional capacities, building compassion for distant strangers, outsiders, and even other species. We can free our empathy from its evolutionary bonds. 

In other words, empathy is not a superpower after all…. It’s a regular old power, like being strong, agile, or good at Scrabble. Some people are genetically predisposed to be stronger than others—but strength is also up to us. Live a sedentary life, and your muscles will atrophy. Stay active, and they’ll grow.  

Tags: Kindness