“First and foremost, we meet as human beings who have much in common: a heart, a face; a voice; the presence of a soul, fears, hope, the ability to trust, the capacity for compassion and understanding, the kinship of being human. “ Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
If you stay abreast of current events like I try to you will note one common theme. There appear to be factions in every arena. Politically, racially, economically, socially, generationally, we seem to be spiraling into our battle stations and becoming more and more entrenched in our beliefs. There is no room for diversity of thought. There is no room for opposing opinions. There is no room for change. It seems like we have lost the capacity for empathy. Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Let’s take a moment and analyze this definition. The ability to understand another person’s point of view does not necessary require a shared personal experience. For example, when I read “The Diary of Anne Frank,” as a young African American girl in the 1980’s, I did not have to experience the horrors of the Holocaust in order to empathize with plight of Anne and her family. My shared humanity with Anne allowed me to simply imagine how I would feel in her place. The second part of that definition states to share the feelings of another. Share denotes to have a portion of to partake with others. In order to share one must be willing to receive. In essence, we cannot share with one another with a closed fist. In order to share we must have the posture of an open hand ready to receive.
Empathy requires us to listen, attempt to understand, and communicate without fear of judgment, ridicule, or retribution. Empathy requires us to slow down and look for the best in our fellow man. Empathy requires us to focus on our shared humanity instead of our perceived differences. When we choose empathy we find that we are much more alike than we are different. We also begin to see our diversity as something to be treasured as beautiful tapestry that helps to make our families, our communities, and our nation great…again.
Alicia Lurry MA LPC CRC