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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Empathy

Photo: rapidlikes.com
I'm in an uber-weird place today. I blame the moon. I like to be funny, but today I'm just not feeling it. I've been a bit hyper-sensitive to the "ugly" in the world lately, and I don't like it. I know it exists; it always has and it always will.  Most of the time I choose not to focus on it. There's a lot of things in this world that are exceptional and amazing too, and I think the more we look at those things, the more we can shape our outlook to something positive. Even so, sometimes I feel like I live in a world devoid of empathy. I don't want to be part of that. Easier said than done.

I know what it's like to be around unsympathetic people. I know what it's like to be humiliated and judged. I think we all do. I know what it's like to be marginalized, verbally abused and physically assaulted too. It's a smaller group that I belong to, but not small enough. I know what it's like to be so betrayed by people I've loved and trusted that I was never the same again. I know what it's like to grow up and realize that nothing I believed in was true. I know what it's like to be told, over and over and over, "You need to figure this out by yourself." I've heard it when I was having the rug ripped out from under me, I've heard it when I was drowning emotionally, I've heard it when I was desperate and asking for help. I drove myself to the hospital in labor. I raised a child to adulthood without a dime of child support. There have been times in my life when just the smallest gesture, just the most minute amount of faith from another person would have made a world of difference, but it wasn't there. I have had to "...figure this out by myself" so consistently that my challenge these days is learning how to trust and work with other people. I'm not complaining! It's new, I've earned it, and it's kind of awesome. But nobody should have to "figure this out" by themselves. That's not why we're here.

But I know what it's like to be angry. Okay, not just angry, but so angry I thought I could be eaten alive by my own rage, and almost was. I can almost understand why people hang on every word of the "news" that tells them who to blame, who to hate and how to feel. And of course it works. If someone is "other" and we get to hate/blame/whatever them, then not only do we get to feel "better than", but it absolves us of  any responsibility for our fellow human beings. We can watch people struggle and feel nothing. We get to be selfish, and feel perfectly justified. Of course it's easy to hang on to that, to believe the lies, to be 'us vs. them'. To develop and cling to a paranoia so intense that we arm ourselves so that we are able to put fatal holes into other human beings as we see fit. Into them. That other created by the hate-factories called "news". How are we okay with this? I mean, HOW ARE WE OKAY WITH THIS?!

I know I'm not the only one who sees it or feels it. I am so grateful for that. But what if we all woke up tomorrow, and decided to trade in our judgement and hatred for empathy? What would things look like then? What if we could be human beings instead of Americans, Canadians, Russians, black, white and brown? What if we recognized that ALL religions (well, maybe not satanism) are, at their heart, based on love? What if we embraced our differences instead of using those differences to kindle fear and paranoia within ourselves or others? What if we saw people struggling, and instead of blaming them, we offered a hand? I know it's possible. In my very own life I have met people who do just those things. Some of them for me. Sometimes, that person has BEEN me. That's how I know we have a choice.

I have been angry and blamey. I know what it feels like. I know how easy it is to just exist in that. But the good people (my mother especially) who have come into my life have allowed me to see something else. We can all be that person for somebody if we want. I choose to be the kind of person I can have respect for. For all of us, it's a choice. You can hate and judge; you can turn a blind eye. It will be your sin to live with. No matter what other people do, the behavior we are responsible for is our own, always. How we treat people isn't about them, it's about who we are. We don't have to be the same to have empathy for one another. If we all had empathy, all the problems in the world today would disappear.



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