Holiday Hero: John Marshall Roberts and Rediscovering Empathy

What’s wrong with the world today?

If you had to sum it up in one or two words, you might say dishonesty, greed, apathy, or corruption.

If you were to ask author and renegade social scientist John Marshall Roberts, the answer would be simple: a lack of empathy.

Roberts has spent the better part of the last decade examining psychology, behavioral studies, and how they intersect with business. What he’s found is that the human race is suffering from a deeply embedded sense of cynicism which is preventing us from taking even a tiny sliver of time to understand one another.

The result has been a complete breakdown of communication between humans at all levels. Couples sit across from each other at the dinner table without talking, and countries declare war on each other without a second thought about the equally valid cultures they might be destorying in the process.

The solution? According to Roberts, it’s time to recognize our cynicism for what it is – undigested pain – and start dissolving it so that we can effectively, collectively begin moving forward again.

In a recent interview, Roberts said that “If we take that blame away, and throw in the word empathy, which leads to insight, then insight can lead to common vision, which can lead to collaboration, which can lead to actual problem solving.”

Roberts recently delivered a passionate speech at TEDx in New Zealand, titled “The Global Urgency of Everyday Empathy” in which he argued that the era of empathy is now upon us, connecting this often ‘misunderappreciated’ psychological skill to the global climate crisis and to the sustainability movement at large.

Listen to Roberts’ TEDx speech:

This philosophy flies in the face of our natural inclination to judge, categorize, and dismiss people because they are different, difficult, or less desirable than we might expect them to be.

This holiday season, the world is fraught with what seem like insurmountable problems. What we’ve been doing clearly isn’t working, but it’s hard to know what to do instead. 
Think about putting some of Robert’s suggestions about witholding judgement and practicing empathy into play in your own life. You might be surprised at how quickly things seem to take on a more positive, productive, and even profitable hue.

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ilse D.
.5 years ago


Caroline L.
Caroline L.5 years ago

Thanks so much for this! I see this everyday, a lack of empathy, of compassion, of a willingness to forgive. It's so sad to see mankind spiraling into a souless state of "me me me get out of my f***g way!".. We were made to love. This is what makes us happy and fulfilled. Thanks for sharing. It is much needed this holiday season and in the painful year to come.

Marti Williams
Marti Williams5 years ago


David N.
David N.5 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Doug D.
Doug D.5 years ago

Violence is so rampant that people have become apathetic to it. I believe empathy is learned, although like other skills, it comes naturally to some more than others.

Kaye S.
Kaye S.5 years ago

I realized that I have been very cynical and negative. This has not been me. This would be something that I must work on over the nexyYear. I also need to stop judging. My major problem judging is criminals. But God does not want us to judge, that would be His job. Another lesson that I need to work on. Thanks.

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L.5 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Amanda K.
Amanda K.5 years ago


Amanda K.
Amanda K.5 years ago


Sharon Schaffhauser

Thank you John Marshall Roberts. Empathy is the first step to a compassionate heart. Putting yourself in someone else's shoes is the 1st step. Seeing everyone else as a family member is the next step up to social consciousness. When we examine the word "hate" = "heat" = yes we are responsible for rising temperatures. Bless us all.