Love is a word tossed around like confetti at a party. With its cavalier usage, we lose the true meaning… by definition, Love is: “strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties”
Though loving everyone is a lovely intention, it is also a lofty goal, that most of us mere mortals cannot attain. To actually love someone, staying true to the defined emotion, we need at least to know something about them, and even those we know inside and out, are not always easy to love. To that end, perhaps preaching and insisting that loving each other will eradicate the worlds issues, has created a no-win, no gray in the middle counter-productive situation, leading us to an extreme of choosing between loving or hating those we don’t see eye to eye with, or in some cases complete, apathetically doing nothing.
Rather, I prefer we stop trying to love so much and in its place, we seek a deeper desire for feeling and sharing empathy…
When we empathize with our fellow humans, we neither need to love or hate them. Heck, we don’t even need to like them or actually know them. Nor do we need to feel pity or sympathy, which is quite a different emotion. If I may borrow a Native American quote to clarify my point, “walk a mile in his moccasins”… when we do this, we make the effort to understand where the other person is coming from. By employing empathy, we don’t need to agree with someone, we don’t need to change our own beliefs or opinions, we don’t need to feel any deep emotion, or argue or defend ourselves. We simply need to stop for a beat and use our energy to view matters through their perspective. Yes, it takes a bit of energy, but so does angrily flying off the handle in defense of our position. Additionally, hate, anger, hostility is emotionally and physically draining. Feeling empathy isn’t.
Remember for a second the last time a petty annoyance got under your skin. An example; the teenage fast-food server mixed up your order. You might have become irate, shouting at the kid and demanding to speak to a manager. Or internally you might have been seething, “how stupid is that damn kid, can’t get a simple order right?” Even after the error was corrected, how did you feel? Were you able to peacefully enjoy your meal or did you feel all flustered inside? Now entertain the idea of instead of becoming instantly vexed, externally or internally, you thought for a minute about what might have led to the mixup… step into the kids shoes… maybe the teen is new on the job, maybe he’s got an important exam after the shift, maybe she just found out she’s pregnant, maybe just being human caused the error, we all make them… the possibilities are endless. When you empathetically evaluate the situation, you can reasonably, if need be
Now entertain the idea to instead of becoming instantly vexed, externally or internally, you thought for a minute about what might have led to the mixup… step into the kids shoes… maybe the teen is new on the job, maybe he’s got an important exam after the shift, maybe she just found out she’s pregnant, maybe just being human caused the error, we all make them… the possibilities are endless. When you empathetically evaluate the situation, you can reasonably, if need be firmly, still state and get what you want, without the hostility.
We all witness anger… about everything, locally, nationally and globally… in social media comments and posts, in day to day in-person encounters with strangers, friends and even colleagues. Habitually, referring to people and situations, we don’t know, like, love or even understand, in derogatory, hostile terms.
If, even, our current US president would say some of the inappropriate and mind-blowing things that spew from his mouth, with some empathy, it wouldn’t make him right, but it would at least soften how we process it.
Looking back to my late mother, even before we were conscious of “political correctness” and as much mindfulness about other peoples feelings, I remember she was, empathetic! She always made an effort to view both sides of a story. Probably explains why I’m the way I am – or in my fragile, sometimes failed human attempts – try to be.
I often speak of empathy to friends; mentioning the times the attribute has served me well. Some look at me like I’ve grown a second head. Or react as if I’m asking they give up their personal rights and beliefs in deference to another’s. Some say “well you’re just trying too hard to be nice, I can’t-do that!”. I wonder, is that they “can’t” or won’t. I ponder is it that they just don’t care enough to even try? Or, is their comfort zone within anger and hostility? If they’re empathetic now, will they need to address other times from the past when they could have been?
The world right now is a scary mess. We need to collectively try to do something that will make a difference and lead us to some semblance of peace. If all-out love isn’t happening. And we know hate makes things worse. How about we give empathy a try.
It might help… it sure can’t hurt!