Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A to Z Challenge: Empathy

Sigh. My Internet failed me yet again, so I'll be posting twice today to catch up. Hopefully, I'll be around to visit everyone who's stopped by too. (If my connection holds.)

Since I'm posting twice today, I'm just going to jump right in with another thing I've learned in my tough times starting in 2014.


I have, in this past year, seen people acting with absolutely no regard for the people around them. And I've seen how people can say they're putting themselves in my shoes, then turn around and prove that they simply don't care about my situation any more than to see in which way it will benefit them.

To those sorts of people, I can honestly say: "Get out of my shoes. You're soiling them and you're contaminating my life."


I don't think so. Honestly, I've been thinking about empathy for a while now, and I've realized that saying: "I put myself in your shoes" is nothing more than empty lip-service.

In fact, coming from the people I mentioned above, I realized that it can be down-right demeaning. Because have you ever noticed how people who are so proud of putting themselves in other's shoes, never really see the problem? Oh, they are so proud of seeing the problem. Of understanding why someone is hurt, or upset, or struggling.

But they never do. 

And insinuating that you can see my point of view simply by pretending to be me for a few moments... That's insulting.

The thing is, I've also done this. I think everyone does. It's this way our human culture has of trying to bridge the gap between people. But because of my last year, I'm working hard not to look at people from their shoes.

I don't fit in their shoes.
I can't wear their shoes. 
I can only wear  my own, look at the people around me and say:
I don't understand. 
Is there any way I can help? 

Because that, rather than passing judgement (good or bad), is empathy.

Have you ever been frustrated when someone acts like they understand you when they obviously don't? 


Timothy Brannan said...

Yeah I get that sometimes.

More often I get people assuming intentions where I didn't have any.

Tim Brannan, The Other Side Blog
2015 A to Z of Vampires

Ronda Werre said...

We can only empathize to the degree in which we want to empathize. Your theme is very touching and I look forward to reading them. Thanks for your vulnerability.

betty said...

Yes it is frustrating when you think someone cares and then find out they don't care or don't understand the situation you are dealing with. It is also frustrating when you see them relating to others around you going through similar hard times and it seems like they understand and care for that particular person, but not me when I tried to explain what was happening. I'm learning too there is sympathy, that which someone might feel for you because they haven't gone through something, and empathy, the person who gets it because they have been through it. Example, empathy over death of parent if your parent is dead too; sympathy when a friend loses a parent, but your parent is still alive. Make sense?


Sandra Meek Wilkes said...

Having been there yourself makes empathy more possible. It is really hard when you haven't walked that walk. But true listening is also a gift that is helpful.

Misha Gericke said...

Timothy, that IS annoying. Especially when the assumed intentions are negative ones.

Thanks for stopping by, Ronda. :-)

Betty, I know exactly what you're saying.

Sandra, I sometimes think that true listening is a gift that's getting lost to humanity.