Empathy: The ability to identify with or understand the perspective, experiences, or motivations of another individual and to comprehend and share another individual’s emotional state.
Grief has been my leading emotion this week, but for more than just personal reasons. I grieve for the state of this nation and our world. And I grieve for my community and those around me.
I grieve the loss of human decency and the lack of empathy that freely and flippantly flows out of the mouths and actions of so many. I grieve when excuses are constantly made for poor behavior, and when people are hurting, truly hurting, the silence is deafening because you’ve determined it doesn’t pertain to you.
This type of grief often leaves me feeling helpless, heartbroken and alone. It’s exhausting and infuriating when incidents like Charlottesville occur and I know I must guard my heart deeply. Not only for the tragic nature of the event itself, but also for the insensitivity and hate that is sure to follow.
Exhibiting empathy doesn’t mean you are abandoning what you believe in.
But if you could press pause on your arguments long enough to place yourself in someone else’s shoes, perhaps a hard but necessary conversation can be had. Perhaps several conversations. Maybe even a continued and respectful dialogue.
Displaying empathy doesn’t cost you a thing, unless you find it too sacrificial to lay down your pride.
When we can no longer weep and mourn with one another because we’ve grown too complacent in our unaffected bubble, the damage is far-reaching.
When we lack empathy our hearts aren’t truly breaking for what breaks God’s heart.
When we lack empathy we easily dismiss the concerns of others because “it doesn’t affect us anyways”.
When we lack empathy we don’t actually hear each other out because we’re too busy crafting our comebacks, deflecting and placing blame.
When we lack empathy we talk about what could have, should have, would have happened if he or she did this, or if he or she won this, or that one time they did that.
When we lack empathy we become more concerned with building our case rather than building a bridge toward unity, peace and love.
When we lack empathy it becomes all about self.
When we can’t or won’t even attempt to see things from a perspective other than our own, it’s no wonder why major issues like racism continue to get dismissed.
Racism is real. Please, repeat after me:
Racism is real.
This shouldn’t be a far-fetched or crazy notion, yet time and time again there is someone making the case that talking about racism isn’t worthy to be heard. Even after neo-Nazis march and spew vile hatred, or white supremacists like David Duke gloat about being emboldened on their Twitter feeds, there’s still too much of this:
You’re being divisive, entitled, and it’s time to move on.
Get over it and stop whining.
It’s just a statue or it’s just a flag or it’s just a fill-in-the-blank are responses I’ve heard time and time again.
You deem talks of injustice or race relations or peaceful protests as “futile” and “fueling the fire”, not realizing (or not caring), that the types of statements you’ve made are marginalizing and insensitive and you are part of the problem.
Before telling someone who is hurting how they should or should not handle themselves, have you maybe tried checking on their heart?
Before jumping on the bandwagon of “many sides were to blame”, have you asked your Jewish friend how they were coping or checked in with your African American neighbor who is smiling through their tears?
Oh but it goes both ways Patricia!! What about when I was wronged by *insert people group*. Doesn’t that count for something? Don’t you care about me too?!!
Yes, actually, I do. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again:
Cruel, ignorant and intolerant people come in all shapes, sizes, colors and occupations. If you were hurt, marginalized or called out your name by one of them, I would stand with you. I might not get it. It may be hard for me to understand, but I’d stand with you.
However, when you are throwing that experience in my face as a way to minimize my suffering, again, you’ve missed it.
Another thing that occurs when we lack empathy, is that we put people in a box because it’s easier that way. The thing is, no one wants to be categorized, stereotyped, or put in a box.
I, for one, have grown weary of tearing the box apart, over and over and over again.
I am a black woman who is absolutely disgusted by racism. I’m a wife and mother who wants to leave my house and not feel like the color of my skin may or may not affect how you treat me or my children. I have been called the n-word multiple times in my life, and I agree that hate, ALL THE HATE is inexcusable, damaging, and a travesty in every way.
Am I passionate about this? YES.
Does it affect me on a real and personal level? ABSOLUTELY.
Do I believe it’s a valuable, relevant and important topic to discuss? YOU BETTER BELIEVE IT.
But that’s not the full picture of who I am and what I’m about. I stand for many things, abhor many things, and wish I had the capabilities to change many things. I simply do not. I do not have the capacity, or the strength to address every single solitary issue that continues to attribute to our country’s great divide.
That doesn’t mean I don’t care!!
I can Back the Blue, Support Our Troops AND insist that you realize Black Lives Matter too!! I shouldn’t have to remind you of this, except it makes it easier for you to despise me, guilt-free, if you think I’m dismissing what is important to you too.
But why do we have to choose?
I’m not saying you have to be involved in a specific movement or make a public statement every time something horrific occurs. I’m simply stating that it’s tiresome every time my heart’s cries are viewed as complaints. It’s a punch in the gut when my examples of personal racist attacks are perceived as “pulling the race card”. And I still can’t understand why you don’t understand that just because a struggle isn’t real to you, doesn’t mean it isn’t real?
And please don’t start throwing out the one quote that you know by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., or pointing to your one black friend as proof positive that you mean well. And to my fellow Christ Believers, I say this with love and grace and peace and hope, please don’t tell me for the umpteenth time that Jesus loves everybody. I know that and believe that with all my heart. My problem is the world, even myself, sometimes struggles with believing all of you.
I’ll believe you when you actually listen. With no ulterior motive. No argument poised and ready before I’ve even opened my mouth. Please, just listen.
I am an immensely flawed individual who sincerely wants to love better, deeper and harder. I stumble and fall. I crash and burn. And sometimes I downright miss the mark.
But I am willing to listen.
If you know me in person and still don’t understand, maybe we can grab a cup of coffee and discuss. And while in reality I’ll be drinking tea because I don’t like coffee (and you might actually hate me for that), I will hear you out. I will not promise to agree with you, but I will listen attentively and with open ears. I will do that for you but the real question is, will you do the same for me? I’d like to think you would, but history dictates that you’re more likely to write me off because it makes you uncomfortable.
Prove me wrong, and let us all invite empathy back into our hearts.