“Nothing is more important than empathy for another human being’s suffering. Nothing. Not wealth, not intelligence, certainly not status. We have to feel for one another if we’re going to survive with dignity.”
em·pa·thy | \ ˈem-pə-thē \
Definition of empathy
1: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner
also : the capacity for this
2: the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it
The division in the world is caused by lack of empathy. We are not seeking to understand, we are not even listening. How can we get to understanding and empathy if listening isn’t even on the table?
If we took the time to hear each other’s stories (with the intention of understanding the other side…..not changing minds or moulding them to our side) I believe that most conflict would be avoided altogether.
We are not seeking empathy. Most of us are seeking righteousness. We want to be “right.”
“Right” is a lonely road. While we may temporarily feel a boost by congregating with those that support our “rightness,” deep down we know it’s not rooted in the truth. The truth is love. And love does not celebrate separation and self righteousness, it rejoices in unity and peace.
Each of us has a story to tell. We are not defined by our stories but our stories influence our actions. How can we judge each other, without ever even knowing each other’s stories? In a culture where judgment and discrimination is supposedly no longer tolerated, how are we still painting each other with broad generalizations and sweeping strokes of accusation, blame and intolerant name calling?
Empathy doesn’t mean agreement. It means feeling and understanding another’s pain.
We erode all attempts at empathy when we judge each other based on a political stance, appearance, race, ideology or status. To say that we are “better than that” then to go ahead and continue “that”…..is an embarrassing slap in the face for humanity.
Without empathy, there is no reason to care if another is suffering. And THAT is a very dangerous thing. A world that celebrates or ignores the suffering of any of its members, is a world that won’t survive.
So while agreement with everyone is not possible, could you not agree that suffering is where we should draw the line?
I commend each and everyone of you who yearns for understanding, unity and grace. It’s not easy to choose above the line conversation. It’s work.
And dare I say, it’s not a privilege to do this work. It’s essential if we are to survive. Because when we heal our minds, we heal the earth.
With grace and grit,
Karla Joy Treadway