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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Developing Empathy

Some people have told me that you can't be truly kind to others unless you've suffered and know what it's like. Well there's a flip side to that. If you've suffered a lot of abuse, it beats you down to the point of only expecting more and turning a jaded eye to others' suffering. Which accounts for the state of the world.

But if we're to make any headway in getting along on this rock in the universe, our best tool is to teach and develop empathy and compassion. It is, I'm convinced, the only way.

It turned around for me when I started getting disabled. I could go outta my mind over all I couldn't do or I could look at it as simple loss and let myself grieve. So I gave myself some slack and from there it got easier to cut slack for others. Most of my life I was a hardass; ask anyone who worked in my kitchens. It took a lot to soften my eyes. I was raised in an every-man-for-himself household. Which I brought to school and later the workplace, and I was a vicious competitor. All that seems selfish and petty to me now. What did it prove and where did it get me? Certainly no better. So there's a regret I can point at- I should've been taking a minute to help the fellow grunt who burned or cut themselves instead of just barking out what he should do and who takes over what for how long.

All it really takes is a moment of thought about the load the grunt next to you is carrying. It's a start. At some point today, look at a coworker or someone you don't know well and wonder how they're doing. Don't be afraid to soften your eyes; we're all suffering. It's easier with practice.


MoonRaven said...

That's inspiring. I think that it's really true that as we give ourselves 'slack', it makes it easier for us to give it to others.

Thank you for all the compassion that you give to the world. I'm sorry you've had to go through so much pain to get there.

Austan said...

Hey Moony, it takes what it takes. I'm just happy to have gotten here. Cuz I got to make friends with good people, like you.