Showing Empathy

Have you ever thought about what this means? Are you a good listener? By which I mean, you’re not thinking about other things or plotting a scene in your head, or deciding what you’ll say when it’s your turn to talk next.

Maybe it’s because authors can become egocentric that I’m thinking about this today, but I decided to write this post because I think it’s an important reminder for all people that the world is a big place, and everything isn’t about you.

I mean, we all have a tendency to make things about us and filter things through our experiences. Sometimes we don’t get what the other person is saying because of it. We all have a tendency to do it. But we can’t let our self-involvement get in the way of caring and making connections. We can’t let jealousy or envy color our responses. We live in an age of ennui, when there’s an excess of everything except compassion and kindness. sad_smiley

I challenge you to think about your last conversation. Were you an engaged listener? Did you come into it without an agenda? When was the last time you talked to someone just because you wanted to, not because you had something you needed to get out of it? To some extent, this behavior is natural and human. It’s only when it occurs to the exclusion of showing empathy at all that it becomes problematic.

If you tell me your sister has broken a bone, and I’m like, I broke a bone once, that’s a problem. The proper response should be along the lines of, OMG, how? Is she ok otherwise? I hope nobody else was hurt. Are you all right? Or some combination thereof. Not because you know your friend’s sister or because it impacts you in some way, but because her hurt presumably hurts your friend. Right?

I wonder if all the modern conveniences have impacted our ability to focus on other people. We live in a me-world, and sometimes it makes me sad.

Melancholy baby

Life is change.

That’s not an arguable point. No matter whether we want changes or not, our lives are constantly in a state of flux. There’s a certain charm to being adaptable, being able to roll with the punches. I’d call that a handy skill.

But sometimes people and events array themselves in what seems to be the perfect way. What if you don’t want that to realign into some formation that’s less than what you had? Now at this point, I could say a bunch of junk about that being good practice, and you never know what’s around the next bend, it could be better still, right?

But the truth is, sometimes I feel like a little kid. And I want to demand, “Why?! Why can’t things stay the same? I like my life this way.”

I acknowledge the selfishness of that response, however. It would be wrong of me to limit other people’s growth just because I like the niche they occupy in my life. So I don’t cling anymore. And when I see people drifting away, I just let them go. Sometimes it’s hard to do so cheerfully, but it’s better than petulance. Though it took me years to figure out, I’ve come to accept that things just never stay the same, no matter how good they were (or how bad).

There comes a point when I just have to step back because I’m not getting out of something what I put into it. That realization necessitates a quiet withdrawal that never fails to make me sad, but it’s better than riding the drama llama into an unwinnable confrontation. You can’t get an answer to a question like, “How come you don’t care as much as you used to?”

Sometimes I wonder if it’s something I do wrong, whether I just don’t have the knack for long-term friendships. People latch onto me for a short time, wring out all the support and encouragement they need, and then just wander away. It is, truly, a puzzlement. If I could stop being hurt by this, I could consider myself truly enlightened. It would be enough that I’m helping people when they need it. And really, that’s okay too. I live largely inside my own head anyway.

Forgive the gloom, good readers. I examined my heart as to what I had to say today, and this was it. I’ll entertain you better on the morrow.