Empathy in Life

Politics brings out the worst in everyone. Everyone is right, therefore everyone is wrong.

Me me me me me me.

Policy issues aside, we live in a society. All of us. Together. What’s remarkable is how few of us are able to empathize with people that were brought up differently than us, with a different set of privileges — lesser or more — and different life experiences.

For example, growing up as a brown man in post-9/11 America, I was subject to a decent amount of racially motivated violence. However, a close family member was not. When I finally opened up to him about my experiences, he was shocked. This can’t be possible, he thought. This didn’t happen to me, so how could this possibly happen to anyone else? It took him a while to come to terms with it.

How can any of us expect someone else to empathize? To step into our shoes?

We can’t.

All we can control is how we empathize with others.

The ability to empathize is a skill. It’s learned and taught. Social work and community service is so extremely underrated. Can you imagine serving a community as an elected official without understanding your constituency? If you represent a predominantly poor neighborhood, yet never visit them or talk to them to understand their struggles, how can you possibly empathize with them and represent them?

This isn’t related only to politics — it’s related to life. How can we be a better neighbor, if we don’t understand our neighbors? It takes an active effort.

But such is the burden of living in a society with other human beings. They unfortunately exist with you, whether you like it or not. If everyone fights each other, nobody wins.

Maybe, just maybe… if I spend the time and energy to understand even one person that is different than I am, I can make our society a little bit better.

That’s enough for me. I am but one individual in the sea of time, after all.

 
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