Crumpling Up Paper: A Lesson in Empathy and Kindness


Lately, our house has been filled with hurt and tension. Maybe it’s the holiday stress, or maybe it’s just one of those cycles we go through. Regardless, it hasn’t been easy. My boys fight and scream, while my girls hurl hurtful words at each other, deliberately aiming for maximum damage.

We’ve had countless discussions about kindness and the importance of caring for others. Saying “sorry,” giving hugs, and showering each other with kisses have become regular occurrences in our home. But deep down, I know that while apologies are necessary, they don’t magically fix everything.

The Experiment

In an attempt to address this issue, I decided to have a heartfelt conversation with my girls about the importance of considering other people’s feelings. I handed each of them a fresh sheet of paper, a rare and special treat in our household, and asked them to jot down how they wished to be treated by others.

I gave them some prompts to get them started, like “I want other people to…” and “Others should treat me…”. The girls then switched papers and took turns reading aloud their sister’s thoughts. When they finished, I asked, “Do you understand how your sister wants to be treated?” They both nodded.

“Now, crumple up your sister’s feelings and say ‘I don’t care!'” I instructed, surprising them both with such a request. Normally, damaging someone’s work would result in serious consequences in our home.

Reluctantly, they followed my instructions, their faces reflecting disbelief. I then explained, “When you do mean, hateful, or hurtful things to others, it’s as if you’re crumpling up their feelings.”

The Lesson

“Now, how do we fix it? What should we do when we hurt someone’s feelings?” I asked. My seven-year-old chimed in, “We say we’re sorry!”

“Exactly,” I affirmed. “We try to make things right by apologizing and showing love and kindness. So, how are you going to fix your sister’s paper?”

My daughter eagerly responded, “We smooth it out!”

“Go ahead, then!” I encouraged them. However, they soon realized that no matter how hard they tried, the wrinkles remained, defying their attempts to restore the paper’s original state.

This, I explained, is precisely how it is with people’s feelings. No matter how much you try to smooth over hurt, the scars of pain will remain. Regardless of your actions or words, once you’ve wounded someone emotionally, those marks will always be there.

The Consequence

After discussing the importance of being mindful of others’ feelings, I posed one final question to my girls: “What happens if you crumple up and smooth out that piece of paper too hard or too many times?”

With certainty, my nine-year-old replied, “It will rip.”

And she was right. When we excessively crumple, smooth, and mistreat paper, it becomes fragile and irreparable. Just like that, people can break too when treated callously or subjected to extreme hurt for extended periods.

At the end of our conversation, my girls understood the significance of taking care of other people’s feelings. They learned that empathy, kindness, and respect are essential in maintaining healthy relationships.

Remember, we should handle others’ emotions delicately because just like crumpled paper, the damage we inflict can leave lasting scars.

Image Sources:

Writing down feelings

Smoothing out paper

This article was written for Quill And Fox, a brand dedicated to spreading positivity and fostering empathy. Visit Quill And Fox to explore their collection of heartfelt content and products.