Episode 18: How to be people, with other people

Empathy, Brené Brown and Winston Churchill

For arguments sake: where we take a debate, cut out the party politics and try to talk it out 

Empathy has become immensely popular. Why?

We have a desire to be understood. We want empathy to be shown to us. And we want to be able to stand in other people’s shoes so we can communicate to them.

Empathy is something Megan and Michael have been speaking about together for quite some time. And it may or may not surprise you that they disagree. Megan is pro empathy. Michael is not.

Michael has been reading Against Empathy by Paul Bloom which argues that empathy has become a substitute for morality. And while it has its uses, there are problems with empathy including:

  • Empathy is biased. We’re more likely to show someone empathy who is like us.
  • Empathy can be manipulated.

Megan, on the other hand, says the way she views empathy has a Christian basis which may not necessarily be how the rest of society views it. There’s an other-centred empathy that tries to get across difference, rather than an empathy that ends up directed just towards others in your own group.

Megan and Michael also grapple with what exactly is empathy.

Also mentioned in this segment:

Discomfort Zone: ever think someone might think differently if they step outside their comfort zone? This is where we make the other do just that.

Megan asks Michael to watch Brené Brown’s Netflix special on courage. His initial reaction was to say, “I thought that was a girl thing.”

Michael did enjoy watching it and learning more about Brené Brown, partially because she’s funny, but also because she can be very insightful.

Both Michael and Megan draw connections between Brené Brown and Jordan Peterson, though they come to very different opinions on both.

Brown also talks a lot about shame, arguing in broad strokes that shame for women is around body issues and shame for men is showing weakness. Megan and Michael discuss her analysis.

Also mentioned in this segment:

Marg and Dave: reviews from two people obsessed by stories, but not always the same ones. 

Megan’s choice this episode: The Darkest Hour, the 2017 war drama film about Winston Churchill.

Churchill and Brené Brown might seem to be an odd couple for this episode, but The Darkest Hour brings out a lot to talk about empathy in leadership.

The common perception of Churchill is all around the strength of his leadership. But Megan says what surprised her in this movie is his vulnerability and doubt.

Megan and Michael discuss what it takes to be a good leader, using Churchill and his experiences as their guide.

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Find out more about the hosts of With All Due Respect:

Rev Dr Michael Jensen, rector at St Mark’s Anglican Darling Point, author, public commentator.

Rev Megan Powell du Toit, ordained Baptist minister, Publishing Manager of the Australian College of Theology, editor of the journal Colloquium.

We got the idea of our two-header theology and culture podcast from this show: The Movie Show/At the Movies.

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