At the beginning of each year, I try to zone in on one word that can shape and challenge the coming season. This year empathy found me and I’m not sure I was really ready for its haunting.
I am an empathetic soul. I cry easily at the commonwealth games and the pursuit of the underdog. Drawn in by the story, my heart is endeared often by strangers. Today I wandered too long behind a lady that was struggling. It was clear she was not looking for help, but I wanted to check in on her welfare just in case.
My eyes linger too long with people’s arguments on the pavement and this week my head turned as I walked the beach and noticed a makeshift house under our local jetty.
I find it easy to be moved with compassion with those that are a step removed. However, I struggle desperately to choose empathy with those who are in my everyday. Tough love becomes my stance, quick words of challenge and boundaries firmly drawn.
The word empathy is defined this way…
the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
I stood in a pop-up shop that was crowded with people recently and a jumper with the words “Choose Empathy” stalked me. Everywhere I went these words were echoing out and I knew their message was not about giving more of myself to strangers overseas. This symphony was calling me to settle more into the discomfort of my everyday. To love broader in my own home and to once again allow wounds of the past to be healed with a balm of forgiveness.
Over the next couple of months, I want to go on the journey of choosing empathy for those who are close. My family, extended family and friends. Learning to listen more and answer carefully. Taking the time to sit and be present, without being productive but to sit in the awkward stance of being human.
I am realising that often the dialogue going on inside me comes out a lot faster than I wish it would. Donald Miller describes it this way…
“It costs personal fear to be authentic but the reward is integrity, and by that I mean a soul fully integrated, no difference between his act and his actual person. Having integrity is about being the same person on the inside that we are on the outside, and if we don’t have integrity, life becomes exhausting.”
When we choose empathy, we choose courage. To sit in the imperfection of our one wild life means to forgive, to forget, to move forward and to begin every day again.
To be human is a difficult pursuit but to show empathy to those closest when we see year upon year of faults that is wisdom and patience.
As we go on this journey together tell me in the comments below in what ways do you struggle to be empathetic to those closest to us?
Let’s go on the journey of choosing empathy, my friends.
12 thoughts on “choose empathy”
I love this, and I’m really looking forward to this series.
I think there are a couple of reasons I struggle to give empathy to those close to me. The first is that I know them too well, or at least I think I do, so assumption is a great part of the equation. Often instead of making assumptions, I should instead be asking questions.
The second is that I often use all my empathy with strangers and acquaintances during the day and so my empathy bucket is empty. (I think giving empathy to myself might actually stop the bucket being emptied).
So much goodness here. So much to think on, thanks Amanda xx
I too am a very emphatic soul, and I can relate closely with what you’ve shared in this blog.
I think empathy for the ones close to us can be difficult at times because by being inheritly human, we in addition to empathy, are also wired for justice, to be heard, to be valued, and to have empathy ‘in kind’ shown to us. Yet it can be in the relationships closest to us, that we can question, or feel these things are not being given, or are not being shown sufficiently. Sometimes we don’t feel heard, understood, or empathised with, and it can cause rise to the feeling that our empathy just via our security in relationship is demanded and perhaps not reciprocated the way we desire.
I think it takes an extra level of humility to examine where “self” comes into our expectations concerning empathy with those close to us.
Are we looking through the true lens of their perspective, or are we looking through the familiar lens of our own expectations at the same time thus minimising our ability to be truly empathic to those closest to us.
This is such a beautiful reflection of empathy and grace. This is why I love Donald millers quote so much. To sit in the awkwardness of unmet expectations but to still love anyway. Xxoo
I love this post and the questions it raises Amanda. I find there are a couple of reasons I struggle to choose empathy with those who are close to me.
The first is that I know them really well, or at least I assume I do. So I assume that I know why they are reacting, and don’t take the time to ask the question. This has challenged me to ask more questions and make less assumptions.
I guess the second reason is that I use up my supply of empathy during the day on others who are just acquaintances or even people at the checkout. I need to make sure that I still have empathy left for my family at the end of the day. And in the end that is down to self-care. Space and grace. Empathy for myself gives me the supply of empathy I need for my family.
I love this series xx
I can relate to your feelings of empathy. Sometimes I feel too much and get frustrated because I want to do something in that moment to help.
Empathy is not a bad quality to have! Looking forward to reading more about this topic. xxx
Thanks so much for taking the time to sit with my story. Compassion is when we are moved to action, but without empathy sometimes our efforts can be in vain.
Such a great topic, but difficult hey?
I loved reading this. It was an eye opener as I do the same thing! Time to reflect some more and open up to those closest to me.
Thankyou for the courage it took to sit in the discomfort. Go well in that area of growth that we are all on.
I love this post and I am really looking forward to the rest of this series.
I think there are a couple of reasons why I often find myself without empathy for those closest to me. The first is that I know them too well. And so I make assumptions instead of asking questions. I need to get inquisitive about what is going on instead of making assumptions.
The second reason is that I often use my empathy up with those I encounter in my every day. I need to be aware of my empathy levels, and make sure that I continue to give grace to myself and those close to me. Often this is about making time for self-care.
Gosh, your points are so spot on. Empathy needs to be fed into our lives with self-care. and self-empathy. Wow- such great thoughts Jodie.
These thoughts are rich with wisdom Amanda. I too feel a deep well of empathy for those around but find myself with compassion fatigue towards those closest to me. I too find myself being tough, harsh or unfeeling to those I should be loving on the most.
Such interesting stuff to think about. I look forward to thinking with you! X
Thankyou for joining the story and encouraging me in my writing. We all experience this at some point in time. Thanks for coming to start a conversation of growth for us all. XXOO amanda