This world could use a lot more empathy.
We all go through impossibly hard things. It looks different for everyone, but we all get touched in some way by loss, pain, suffering.
For one it’s divorce, for another death. For one it’s addiction, another cancer. For some it’s multiple things at once. For others, it’s years of struggle. But no one is immune. Which is why it’s so important that we do a better job of having empathy for others.
Ideally, when we go through hard things, it should make us more empathetic toward others because we can relate to their challenges and understand what they’re feeling.
In reality, too many of us grow hard and calloused, or start a game of comparison. Instead of checking ourselves, and finding empathy for someone, our immediate reaction is to think (or worse, say), “Yeah, that’s bad, but I’ve seen worse.”
We seem to have this tendency to forget how bad we’ve hurt, or we try to empower ourselves by claiming victory over whatever obstacle we faced instead of admitting how hard or scary it was. But what if instead we took a moment to reflect on what we’ve been through and use our experience to help others find a way out of what they’re going through, in whatever way works best for them?
Don’t dismiss someone else’s feelings or experiences because “you’ve had it worse.” Don’t look down on someone for their response to tragedy or even minor distress just because “you’ve been through tough times, too.” Or maybe you’re in a tough time right now, so you have trouble finding empathy for someone else. Try making it less about you and more about them. If we all cared more for others than we did ourselves, we’d be in a lot better shape as a whole.
I listened to a podcast over the weekend that was a good reminder for what we should be striving for in life. Bishop Barron of the Word on Fire podcast was asked what you can do when you are feeling depressed, anxious, far away from God, unhappy, etc. His response was that you should perform one act of love. (The definition of love being: to will the good of the other.) One act. Send a text, make a meal, give a gift, volunteer, etc. Just one act of love for another person. And then when you’ve done that one act of love, do another. And then another. Eventually you’ll find that all you’re putting out into the world is love, and you’ll begin to see it return tenfold.
Bishop Barron also shared a fun anecdote that I think will stick with me forever, because it makes so much sense and yet it’s so simple. Imagine that a genie came to grant you three wishes. If you’re anything like me, you might be thinking of things like “a bottomless bank account,” or “the ability to travel whenever/wherever I want,” or “more time with family and friends,” etc. His suggestion of what you should wish for? Faith. Hope. Love. Material possessions, and even people, will all turn to ash eventually. But if all you had in life was faith, hope, and love, you’d always have enough. You’d always be happy. You’d have something to trust and believe in, something to look forward to, and something to love. Beautiful.
In a time when we’re all vehemently divided on so many things, and find ourselves fighting for one cause or another, I hope that more of us will begin to see that material things don’t matter and that our real fight should be for more faith, hope, and love. Our real fight should be for the good of each other.
Love is not a feeling, but a choice. And you back that choice by taking action.
We need to do a better job of seeing each other as fellow human beings, fellow sufferers, fellow children of God. We need to do a better job of finding solutions instead of elevating conflict. We need to do a better job of supporting each other instead of comparing our lives and hardships. We need to do a better job of loving each other. We need to do better.
“When I think someone ought to be more loving, it’s usually me.” – Bob Goff