A Call for Empathy

In my last post I shared an open letter I wrote to a friend who recently hurt my feelings. It was one of the scarier pieces I’ve written because it challenged a lot old patterns that I have been working really hard to overcome: over-responsibility for others, taking on other’s feelings, keeping secrets to protect people who’ve hurt me, doubting myself, questioning my own worth, and not standing up for myself. Every step of the way in writing that letter, I considered my friend and his feelings. I wrote and rewrote and backspaced so many times in an effort to keep him as anonymous as possible and convey my feelings to him from a place of love. The last thing I wanted was to hurt him. But, I knew that in sticking up for myself I likely still would (this isn’t my first rodeo). Truthfully, I feel that writing that letter was the most loving thing I could do for both myself and for him. I can’t help but wonder what kind of trouble he could potentially get himself into if he spoke the way he did to me to a woman who didn’t care about him.

I shared the letter publicly because I needed to be heard not just by him, but by everyone. I needed to speak up for myself to make up for all the times I hadn’t in the past. And I have been inspired to do so by people, particularly strong women, who have bravely set an example that I could follow. A lot of people are using their voices to stand up for what they believe right now. And it’s AMAZING. But, what’s with all the judgment and hate going around on all sides? Even if I’m reading something that I generally agree with, I am turned off by negative tones and language. For me, the message gets lost.

Can we please get some empathy up in here?!?!

I’m making a public statement that it is my intention to bring empathy into every situation, particularly during these extremely tough times. To not bring judgment, hate or anger into any disagreement, no matter how heated. To remember to walk away if I get triggered and come back when I’ve had time to cool off. To not feed into the negativity, but to focus on the solution to any problem. Whether I’m conversing with a friend whose political beliefs differ from mine, wearing a mask when out in public, overtipping my food server because they are working in a non-essential industry in the midst of a global pandemic, or spending an entire day and sleepless night carefully wording a letter to a friend that’s hurt me, it is my intention to come from a place of love. Always.

I’ve spent a lot of time working through my shit so as to better understand who I am and who I want to be in this world. And it feels good to share that with people. I realize that not everyone is going to like everything I have to say. I may even hurt or lose friends along the way. But, I will never willingly cause harm to anyone. I’ll make plenty of mistakes, but when I do I’ll own them, learn from them, and improve. It’s not easy. And it’s a lot of work. And I fuck up a lot. Sometimes I catch myself gossiping, or pre-judging someone before getting to know them, or making a joke that disrespects a group of people that I’m not part of. I even yelled “See you in hell!” to a complete stranger a few weeks ago (after he had verbally harassed my friend and I in a very angry and threatening way over a parking spot!). I’m not perfect; I’ll admit it! But, I’m getting increasingly better at catching myself when engaging in this kind of negative behavior. Soon I hope to be consistently catching myself before I even open my giant mouth. This is because I have empathy for my fellow humans. I’m choosing to bring my awareness to issues that don’t necessarily revolve around me because I want to make the world a better place for all of us. And on a personal level, it makes me feel good! I like who I am so much better when I’m being empathetic and compassionate than when I’m not.

There is an urgent need for empathy right now. These are challenging times. I’ve been hearing that phrase so much lately that it actually has almost no meaning when I see it typed out. But, it’s true. We are being challenged on so many levels. And everyone is dealing with a lot right now, both inwardly and outwardly. Please try and consider that when interacting with other people, especially those with whom you disagree. Try to comprehend that their experiences may have vastly differed from yours. Try to imagine the impact those experiences may have had on them. Try to see everyone as an extension of yourself. And please, for the love of God, VOTE!

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