There is only one valuable thing you need to have in life to make it extraordinary.
The ability to sit in someone’s shoes and feel what they are feeling. The ability to suspend your own way of seeing life and see it through the eyes of someone else.
Without empathy, you can’t be in love.
Without empathy, you can’t create art.
Without empathy, you won’t have success.
Without empathy, you cease to be human, in an evolved sense.
Being empathetic does not mean you have to take what everyone is offering you. I used to confuse empathy with being a victim.
Empathy is actually all about being extraordinarily human and deeply integrated in life.
Empathy is heroic.
Empathy doesn’t cause you confusion, it creates clarity. That’s because being empathetic and sitting in the shoes of another person shows you that you can see that the world isn’t all about you. It means that some people have bad days, have a bad sense of humor at times or have trauma in their lives. It means that you can understand what other people are going through even though they can’t actually express it in words.
Empathy means that you can connect.
Its a two way street.
You can’t be the only one.
The most valuable lessons in my life have come from people who have shown me that they lack empathy.
It is shocking and scary when you realize that some people can’t get beyond themselves, especially people who care about you. Their lives are such that they can’t see their way out of their own way.
Every person I have met that lacks empathy instead has a lot of pride, a lot of mis-guided anger and a lot of fear guiding their lives. Usually, its all fear. That fear comes at you and spins your head around, because it comes out of left field.
If you have been on a roller coaster of a relationship with someone- friend, family or romantic, either one- and you can’t come to grips with making it right, I bet you empathy is missing.
If you feel like…
- Its not comfortable, really, ever.
- You come last.
- You are unreasonable for having feelings.
- You are not sure where you stand.
- You walk on eggshells.
- You are a hapless victim of circumstances.
Empathy is not there.
And no matter how much you care, it doesn’t matter. No matter how much effort you could make, it makes no difference.
You can’t come up against a brick wall and expect it to hug you and tell you that you are OK.
You slam against a brick wall.
So does all your emotion, all your happiness and all your joy.
You can’t let life teach you that empathy is bad. Empathy is beautiful. You have to trust that if you walk through life with an open heart and do all you can to have compassion and feel for others and lift them higher that you will find your people. Your people have empathy for you on that same high level. They always come.
My life is graced with empathy. And when I slam up against a brick wall it hurts sometimes but it reminds me that we all have a lot to contend with in life. That doesn’t mean I sit in front of the brick wall and try to break it down.
I used to.
Have you ever tried so hard to break down the walls surrounding someone that you felt yourself wither in the process?
I have, for sure. It was the largest mistake I have ever made in my life. It tore down my career, my friendships and my health.
You don’t need to make this your story.
People without empathy don’t react to your pain, so your self-destruction is very unimpressive to them because they just can’t feel it.
I once called my father from a strip club where I worked for 2 weeks at 19 years old (as a hostess— fully clothed, by the way) as a last-ditch effort to up the stakes and show him how much his inability to care about me was hurting me. I was sitting with people shooting up heroin at 5am waiting for everyone to count their money and go home. I was also a star student at Stanford at the time, on Summer vacation. While I could feel my soul shrinking by the second in that cold space, I was hoping this phone call would be the moment that things changed.
My father answered and when I loudly proclaimed I was working at this strip club and explaining my life to him all he said was:
“Dana, I know what you are doing. Is that the best you could do?”
It was one of the last times I spoke to him, and it was also the last time I would try to convince anyone under any circumstances to see how I felt.
People can feel you or they can’t. Its not your fault. Don’t suffer for it.
Don’t internalize a lack of empathy. Usually the people who lack empathy also don’t treat themselves well, either. They usually don’t like themselves . That’s a dark and horrible place to be. Its very lonely.
You need to have compassion. Or, I needed to have compassion.
Compassion. The best cure.
Vilifying people creates less empathy in your own life. It shrinks your space, closes your heart and makes life feel like a small black space rather than the infinite greatness that it actually is in full.
You need to be open to be creative, to know love and to feel free. Start walking through life with the kind of gratitude that moves mountains. Start making life more of a connection, and show up to be a part of that connection fully.
You are not living in Utopia thinking that people who care about you will show you that they care about you.
You are not unreasonable to think that people should think about other things but themselves.
Stay in that space of love no matter what you come up against. Where you get no love back, love anyway. I really believe that’s the only way we can change our world, each of us, in extraordinary ways.
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