The Ghost I Call Empathy
Not to seem overly hyperbolic, but I truly think we are at a point in time where empathy is no longer commonplace. Maybe, I’m naïve. Maybe, I was never in touch with reality, to begin with. But I can’t understand why people have become less sympathetic to other people’s plights.
What are we doing as a nation? Have we unraveled so far that we no longer care about who Jesus refers to in The Bible as, “the least of them?” There are so many things we take for granted that we don’t even realize are a privilege. For example, have you ever wondered how homeless women deal with their period? If this has never crossed your mind, you’re not alone. I never thought about it until I watched a segment on it. Then, in typical Victoria fashion, I proceeded to read 50 million articles about it.
Know your privilege. Your privilege can be a variety of things (your race, your beauty, your socioeconomic status, etc). Growing up in Orange County and attending private school my entire life, I was so naïve to many of the world’s problems, but it was not because I did not care. I just did not have exposure to a lot of the problems I’m now very vested in. No one is asking anyone to apologize for who they are, but we are called to empathize and put ourselves in other people’s shoes. We can never truly know what it is like to be someone else, but it’s important to try.
I can honestly say I pride myself on being empathetic. I feel other people’s pain as if it were my own. It’s not because I think I’m so perfect, it’s simply because I am able to recognize my privilege. The older I get, the more I feel like it’s my duty to help other women. I sincerely feel like it’s my job to understand the different issues women face.
And as I write this, I realize I’m yearning for something that wasn’t ever really there. I guess what I’m really missing is the thin veil of fabricated concern for others. Just because empathy has never been a prized jewel in our society, doesn’t mean we can’t strive to make it one. Now, you’re probably thinking: “Victoria, jeez. This is a downer post.” You would be right in that assertion. But if you know anything about me, you know I am the queen of empowerment. I am #1 cheerleader to all my friends and family. We got this, boo! Nobody said we couldn’t create a culture of better understanding one woman at a time.
So let’s do this!
3 Quick and Easy Steps to Empathy
Our first responsibility is to listen to the stories of other women. In the hustle and bustle of today’s world, people don’t listen. One more time because I reallllly need you guys to acknowledge this hard truth: PEOPLE DO NOT LISTEN. When someone else is talking, people are often either thinking about what they are going to say next or thinking about another topic entirely. Stop, doing that. Just listen to what other people are going through.
Accept that you do not know everyone’s experiences and you can always learn something new. Now, it is no secret that I am a very opinionated person. I am also a very conscientious person (that’s the only child in me) and have a hard time understanding why people can’t just “do the right thing.” Be humble. Realize you have not walked a mile in their shoes. You can still have convicted morals and still show love and understanding for people’s reasoning for doing something you don’t agree with. I say this with the caveat of you using your discretion. Obviously, if someone is racist (or supporting racism) or a rapist (or supporting sexual violence) or anything crazy like that, no excuse can defend that. But within normal circumstances, you can probably muster up some empathy.
First and foremost, love yourself. If you don’t have healthy self-esteem, it will manifest in your mistreatment of others. Don’t try to live in a “Trumpian” reality where everyone is the problem when really, you are the psychopath. Welcome people of different backgrounds and life experiences into your life. View them as an asset. Think of variety in your life as an opportunity for listening, learning, and loving. God loves variety, and you should too.