Isn't it crazy to think about how there are 7 billion people in the world, and half of the time each of us can only think about what we need to do to get through our own daily lives? We are so concerned about what we're going to eat for lunch, or how much our pay checks are going to be, or if we're in a fight with our significant other, or if we're sick with the flu. All of the little details of our own day seem like the most important thing in the world, yet every single other person has their own little details that they are concerned about.
Some of us are better listeners than others, but even when a friend is telling us about their problems, we are already thinking about our own problems. Then maybe your friend gets sick and you automatically think about how that's going to change your plans that you had made with them. Or maybe somebody disagrees with you, and instead of listening to their side of the story, you're formulating your own argument as they're still explaining theirs.
I'm not saying that all of this can be helped. In fact, it's basic human nature. Survival of the fittest is real, and sometimes you do have to watch your own back. But empathy is a powerful tool. You have the chance almost every day to put your self in someone else's shoes. We are all unique individuals who have our own troubles, weaknesses, and fears. There's no way you can ever know completely what someone else is going through...but you can try to see things the way that they see things.
There are certain things that I am extremely passionate about, and it's very hard for me to be open minded when something has a different opinion than I do about these things. There are many times when I fight back and make sure my opinion is known. But lately I've been working on empathizing with people who don't agree with me. As much as I would love to change their opinion, I sometimes need to step back and see where they're coming from. Not everyone can be the same. Otherwise our world would be a sad and boring place. There would be no reform or revolutions. Everything would always be the same, and nothing would change. People would lose their creativity and ingenuity.
Sometimes taking a step back and thinking about how I would feel in someone else's situation is exactly what I need to do to understand them. There are many times where I have to hold myself back from telling someone what I think they should differently in their lives. But that's exactly what it is -- their life. If they ask my opinion about something, then sure, I'm going to tell them what I believe. But until they do, I want to try to understand why they do the things they do. And I respect people more when they do the same for me.
Practicing empathy has done great things in my life. I've met a lot of people from different backgrounds in college, and it's made me realize that even if they grew up in the same state as me, their upbringing was probably different from mine.
Thinking about how different my life would be if I would have gone through what other's have been through (good or bad) makes me think twice before I judge someone for the way they think or act. While judging others is easy, you have to think about why they do the things they do, and you might realize that they have reasons just like you do for the way you act.
Before I make opinions about politics or world news, I try to think about why the world is the way that it is. There are people out there who cannot afford to buy food or shelter. Therefore, they resort to stealing or begging.
I used to do 30 hour famines for my youth group, and it was hard. Being hungry is a scary and terrible feeling that I wouldn't wish upon anyone. Unfortunately, thousands and thousands of people are starving every day. Thinking about that fact makes me want to give back as much as I can, no matter how little that might be.
So next time you get angry because somebody was rude to you, or your friend won't answer their phone, try to think about what might be going on in their life, rather than how their actions are affecting you.
The power of empathy is limitless, and I think if everyone practiced it a little more, the world would be a more peaceful place.