The Next Four-Letter Word (+3) – EMPATHY
by Dawn Garcia
1. the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Basic Humanity 101: I believe we are all busy. Too busy. I also believe we have lost the art of thinking and genuinely caring about one another. Empathy seems to be a lost art and what’s sad about that statement is that it shouldn’t be an artful idea at all but rather a natural characteristic of who we are. We are no longer careful with one another. Everyone so self consumed and distracted that all they care about is what’s happening to them. The dialogue of two people talking, discussing, learning, thinking about someone outside of themselves is rare. We are all too accepting of selfishness and less willing to let go and think of someone else. It’s the most disheartening side of what humanity has become. I don’t believe we are this careless by nature. I think we are training ourselves to be more careless, less careful.
Life is hard enough these days. The economy weighing down on just about everyone like an albatross that won’t let loose. Relationships failing at exponential rates, the continual search for something even better, trust a forgone conclusion, chasing shallow ideals, families dissipating – and – somehow I just believe we can do better. I believe we ARE better.
We need to stop moving so fast. We need to stop seeing people as inconveniencing factors in the day and instead realize that human beings actually matter. We are all scurrying around so quickly, on our phones texting and Facebooking every second (myself included), spend hours chatting and never once bother to pick up the phone to hear the sound of someone’s voice. I see it. I do it. I’ve made the steps to change it. And then you have the people who only believe the world is happening TO them. This vortex of people who feel they are the only ones experiencing hurt, pain or loss. Half of my friends are in the middle of divorce and every single one of them acts out differently. And I do mean “acts out”. Divorce spurs a certain sense of “acting out” as if you’ve forgotten all sense of who you are for a while. Sometimes it’s healthy and really self evolving. Other times its childish and selfish and all-too-often like they’ve been let loose into the wild. The thing is, we are so fragile. So lost. Especially with something like divorce. I, myself have been through it and it sucks. It does, but it isn’t the end. It doesn’t define you unless you keep making the same mistakes over and over.
Life challenges us to learn from the insurmountable mountain of societal failure and self doubt. No matter what is happening, the world has become accelerated. As if everything that you have to feel and want and care about happens at warp speed and just as easily as it comes, it goes. A shocking amount of people afraid of commitment or emotional awareness (mainly their own). The thing is, these days, you’re hard pressed to find ANYONE without baggage. We’re all a mess. Every one of us. But that’s what makes it so beautiful. BUT we have got to stop this perpetual cycle of apathy. That frightens me. People say and do things and take no responsibility for the effects it has on others. That has to stop.
Apathy is how we got here and at the rate we’re going, humanity is going to find itself so disconnected, we won’t know how to behave or speak to one another at all.
We all search for a connection to something. Empathy is the connector. It’s ok to feel what someone else feels. It isn’t a weakness. It’s your greatest strength. Empathy allows you to care deeply about others and if we’re all practicing then none of us will feel that aching sense of displacement. I know it’s not the norm but it is a characteristic that can heal the biggest gaps. It can and will create a sense of unity and I have to say, we need it now more than ever. Stop being selfish. Stop thinking EVERYTHING is about you. Stop believing there will always be something better and stop using the excuse that you are still “figuring out who you are”. You know who you are. We all know who we are. You just have to be brave enough to embrace that. We all evolve and change and hopefully become better people. That said, if we continue to perform as apathetic wanderers, we will lose our footing. We will become so lost we may not be able to find our way back. So let the next harsh word you’re about to say – quiet. Let that heart of yours – open. Let that sense of entitlement – dissolve. Let the heaviness of taking on someone else’s “burden” NOT be a burden but rather the thing that humanizes you. We could all stand to care about one another more. To NOT be so careless. To recognize the truly good and worthy people in our lives.
Walk a day in someone else’s shoes and imagine what they must feel. You’ll be surprised. And you may very well have work to do on yourself but don’t use that as an excuse to be negligent. It’s a tragic excuse. One that is inexcusable. In other words, strive for a little calm. Be open to possibility. Laugh WITH someone and not AT them. Hold someone when they cry. Hug a little tighter. When you’re child tells you they don’t feel good, don’t dismiss it. When someone says they’re lonely, don’t assume it has anything to do with sex. Don’t be afraid to take a chance on someone. Don’t go back on your word. If you make a commitment, stick to it. If someone says they need you – listen. When you’re wrong, apologize. No excuses. Do not make assumptions. As my father used to always say: ASSUMING makes an ass out of you and me (clever play on words). When you feel the urge to make a judgment, STOP. Until you know for sure, you are merely transferring your own self doubt and insecurity onto someone else unnecessarily. We are all better than that. You don’t have the “right” to treat people like they’re irrelevant. No one does. Look deeper. Into others. Into yourself. Find the thread that’s tethering us together.
Apathy is toxic. It’s poison reaches into you and it is uncomfortably difficult to undo so don’t let it affix itself to your most vital organ. Instead rip it’s tentacles off and replace it with a little empathy.
Oh and the next time you feel like saying something awful, instead of letting it ooze out without a thought or droppin’ an “F Bomb” – practice the beautiful “ART” of EMPATHY. See what happens. All of you. All of US. Rise to the occasion.
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