We are currently in the midst of an empathy crisis. Whatever the cause may be – a system that values individualism and competition over community perhaps, or a loss of face-to-face human contact in favor of anonymous interactions through screens – people are seemingly finding it harder to walk in another person’s shoes.

This decline in emotional intelligence leads to people finding it more difficult to relate to others and consider alternative perspectives on life, makes us less able to listen and truly understand the problems that need to be solved as a society, and even robs us of the self-awareness needed to understand our own emotional responses. The result? An atomized and bitterly divided place where everyone is shouting, but nobody is listening.

Image credits: Cierra Brittany Forney

So how do we teach empathy? One way is through experience – getting out of your comfort zone to see the world the way other people see it. Cierra Forney, from Braselton, Georgia, knows this, so when her 13-year-old son started to get a little full of himself and looking down on others for their circumstances, she decided to give him a valuable lesson.

Image credits: Cierra Brittany Forney

Cierra’s little story went insanely viral, with over 1 million likes and shares since she wrote it back in 2018. People mostly reacted positively to her example of meaningful parenting, although obviously there were the usual haters and trolls too. She addressed these in a later post, explaining that she just wants the best for her son, and to help him grow into a thoughtful, tolerant and empathetic man.

“All the public shaming and saying my son will grow to hate me, sue me and later kill me are just awful,” she wrote. “My son and I have an amazing relationship. He tells me everything and trusts me wholeheartedly. I DO NOT care what anyone has to say about my post because I SOLELY did this to help my son become a better man. All the positive feedback and comments have brought me to tears and so have all the negative ones. All that matters is my son is completely 100 percent okay with what happened.”

“My son has learned a valuable lesson from this AND he is rockin’ the button-up shirt he bought from the Goodwill with PRIDE today!!!”

What do you think? Was this a good way to teach a child to be kinder and more empathetic towards others? Do you often visit thrift stores yourself? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Here’s how people reacted to Cierra’s post