Movement Matters: We Are People of Empathy

While recently watching ‘Princess Bride’ for the 100th time, I was taken for the first time with Westley’s retort to Count Tyron: “We are men of action. Lies do not become us.” I began to think… so, what am I? Not personally so much, but as a professional, as a provider, as a Physical Therapist. The quote has been rattling around in my head for awhile during the pandemic, the social discord that has erupted this summer, and during this unsavory presidential campaign. What am I? Am I a man of action? Yes, I am. But more importantly than that, I am a man of Empathy.

Empathy, as it turns out, is a prerequisite for success as a Physical Therapist. The colleagues whom I know and respect the most, both physicians and physical therapists, are people of Empathy. Why is this important? Our primary and only function, the reason that you commit your time and resources and entrust your care to our team, is because we are solely interested in helping you return to the highest possible level of pain-free function available to you. And as I look at my staff, they are people of Empathy as well.

Lest you confuse Empathy with softness, or concern yourself that we may be “snowflakes,” Empathy does not paralyze us, but moves us to action. We employ Empathy to understand your heartache in tearing your ACL the first game of your senior year, and move on to the hard work of getting you back on your feet. We use Empathy to understand your frustration in missing the opportunity to defend the club singles championship; but it doesn’t stop us from pushing you to your highest possible level of competition, as soon as you are able. We use Empathy to listen as you talk about your recent diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease, but pivot to push you to walk your daughter down the aisle. Empathy doesn’t cripple us: it equips us to be people of action.

Of the many things that I have noted in the ongoing schism in our country is a lack of Empathy regarding race relations, racial equality, LGBTQ+ rights, professional athletes’ protests, global warming, COVID response, etc. The notable absence of Empathy undermines our ability to have civil discord. Without it, we become further fractured as a country; with it, we seek to understand, and healing follows. And, lest you think that we need our leaders to show us the way, I would submit to you that it needs to start with us.

So, we are people of Empathy. We hope that you will entrust us with your care. We want you to be comfortable in our care and be confident that we will listen, understand, and push you as hard as necessary to get back to an active life, without pain, sooner. And if we can agree that Empathy is something that we should all embrace, what a better world we will create.

To your health and vitality,