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.