Love is the root of everything that matters, and the root of love is empathy.

Empathy allows us to put ourselves in someone else's shoes, to identify with their pain and pleasure, to set aside our own wants and desires to help others achieve theirs, to cooperate with others for a common goal.

Cooperation has been the key to human survival for thousands of years. Empathy in a professional relationship allows us to cooperate with other people for a work-related goal. Empathy in a personal relationship allows us to cooperate with the other person for a love-related goal. Professional empathy is merely cognitive because you understand what the other person is experiencing. Personal empathy is emotional because you feel what the other person is experiencing. The difference is similar to knowing that it's raining and being rained upon.

Studies with young children suggest that empathy is both inherited and acquired. We are born with the ability to love but need relationships with others for it to mature. Most children under the age of 5, for example, cannot empathize with others. If four-year old Johnny, for example, hits Charley in the head with a toy truck, Johnny can't relate to Charley's pain or distress. If Charley reciprocates by hitting Johnny with that truck, Johnny still won't get it.

Some children never develop the ability to intellectually grasp or emotionally embrace the connection between what happens to them and what happens to others. This lack of empathy can lead to lying, thievery, bullying others, aggressive behavior, cruelty to animals, lack of remorse, and unresponsiveness to punishment.

Most children over the age of 5, however, begin to develop the mental and emotional maturity to put themselves in someone else's shoes. And that leads to loving others and loving ourselves, for we must first love ourselves before we can love someone else.

Love is a prayer you fall into as belief overcomes disbelief.
A wave that you ride to that sweet shore called home.
Patient, kind, other-seeking and willing to change.
Not easily angered nor mindful of wrongs done.
Discovering why you suffered without it.
Tolerance and forgiveness without end.
Friendship on fire.