Empathy is what gives us another window into the experience of living.
It’s the bell of awareness that humbly reminds us that other people are just as important to themselves as we are to ours. And anytime anyone is unpleasant, the appropriate response is compassion.
As such, before we freak out and start silently name calling strangers inside of our anxious heads, we can make the empathetic leap by training ourselves to ask questions instead. We can treat it like an experiment in curiosity.
Here are a few of my favorites.
What if this person is fighting a battle that we know nothing about?
What if they’re tortured by voices we cannot hear and discomforted by emotions we cannot feel?
What if we actually considered how much suffering they must have endured to ultimately act like such a jerk?
What if we accepted the fact that there are serious bad things that happen to others through no fault of their own?
My mentor used to tell me, people are not evil, they’re just complicated.
That’s empathy. Trusting that each human being rests at the nexus of a vast number of interwoven causes and conditions that influence their behavior, and odds are, it probably has nothing to do with us.
I once worked with a cold, emotionless, porcupine of a person who didn’t trust anyone and played the game of office politics like a grand chess master. Everyone on the team shit themselves with fear in her presence.
But not me. Her coarseness sent wave of compassion racing down my spine every time we interacted.
Because there was no doubt in my mind that her anger and hostility originated from a place of profound pain. And that only made me feel more and more love for her.
Sure enough, we never had a problem with each other and did great work together.
If you have someone like that in your life, and nothing inside of you wants to find a shred of compassion, try harder.
Acknowledge that we all share the human condition of imperfection, and see if you can open your heart to them.
Your love will wear them down eventually.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
Who in your life needs you to stand as a compassionate witness to their pain?
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