Have been working on a class on empathy today. Is that why today’s news seemed relevant?
The cordial meeting of our current and soon-to-be first lady shows me how differences are overcome when we recognize our shared humanity. Reports said that during the meeting of these two very different women, much of their talk centered on raising daughters. Was it this similarity—both are mothers with two girls--that created such a warm and friendly meeting?
Since I don’t have children, I don’t relate to parents in the same way that I relate to pet owners or gardeners or camping enthusiasts. When parents discuss their teething babies or grouchy teenagers, I have to work to find an analogy to understand their pain or joy.
But since empathy (and compassion) are born from sensing another person’s inner world, it is important that I work to understand. I probably won’t ever understand raising children as another parent would, but I understand the hunger for recognition, the fear of failure, and the pain of being misunderstood—emotional challenges that we all face, no matter our circumstances.
If we are similar, I can quickly empathize with your struggles and concerns. If we are very different, I’m often tempted to simply judge you. It is much easier (in the short run). But if I’m willing to push past my biases and keep an open, curious mind, I can be rewarded with empathy. Then, my world expands as I discover a more peaceful and compassionate heart within.