Lincoln on Empathy & The Better Angels of our Nature

Lincoln on Empathy & The Better Angels of our Nature September 26, 2021

Another epoch quote from Lincoln:

“Don’t criticize them; they are just what we would be under similar circumstances.”

Make no mistake; this position is far from relativism; his legacy has clearly proven that out. And yet, despite his assertiveness on standing up for truth, there is an incredible tone of empathy for those on the opposite side of your views.

From his 1st Inaugural Address:

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Time and time again, we see that throughout his presidency, Lincoln maintained that his opponents are not his enemies and to demonize opposing views/opponents is to radically miss the mark of the “better angles of our nature”. At the end of the day, we are looking at our “friends” or perhaps more cogently:  what we would be under similar circumstances”.

In the most divisive times I have seen in my lifetime, Lincoln’s timeless wisdom is calling for the better angels of our nature. We may radically disagree on social, political and religious viewpoints, but the way forward is affirming the intrinsic worth of all humanity, despite our differences. The best way to sort out truth (and assertively share what we believe is true) needs to start with empathy and love.

Image credit: “Abraham Lincoln” by Moses Parker Rice

Wikimedia Commons


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