It is! This holiday is a day we are to express our gratitude to the people we care for by sharing this day with them. Through our gratitude we acknowledge the people in our lives and remind them of their goodness, and they remind us of our own. We celebrate with others on this holiday to acknowledge each other– and this is where empathy lives.
Empathy is nothing more than our demonstration of gratitude for the support and help we have been given by another. It is demonstrated by our willingness to put ourselves in their shoes- their body, heart and mindset. We do it, on this day, Thanksgiving, symbolically with food and drinks and by gathering together; but the real point of it is to be able to understand another and their point of view no matter how different from our own- if but temporarily. There is nothing more potent than being able to say to ourselves, and that other person, truthfully ” I understand why you feel what you do.”
When we try our very best to soak in ALL that we are able to see, to understand MORE about an individual that we care for- to the very best of our ability- we become flexible, translucent, open receptors in our thinking. We become more tolerant. More understanding. More willing to find compromise.
And if we don’t spend time with them in this way, we don’t. And yet by doing so, without fail, we probably will better understand how they are feeling, and why they do or say the things they do. And this form of gratitude is long lasting. To know another human being, and have that human being know you, is something to be truly grateful for. We both feel less alone and more understood- key to what life is really all about.
And yet, empathy, is not a place we are comfortable frequenting. It seems to require a national holiday for us to acknowledge its value at all, frankly. I notice that every time I post something about empathy, even, it’s not the best read. And yet empathy changes us profoundly. Remarkably. Lovingly, usually.
These past few weeks, for me personally, have been difficult ones. I have asked of others to have empathy for me on more than one occasion.
It has been 2 weeks of intense learning for me as I stretched myself to write and quickly assemble a USAID proposal; leading the initiative while collaboratively writing with a team of 17 rockstars in the entrepreneurship space who have so much to contribute and whom I am all in awe of, frankly.
And the number of sacrifices and new lessons I have had put in front of me came rapid fire- warp speed equally.
Who cares if you have a vacation planned with the hubby and you have yet to go on one where some deadline wasn’t looming. All he asked for was just this one.
So the solution was simple- empathy. He knew I could not avoid the deadline- eventually; and I knew I could not let him down. (How sweet that my husband wanted to go on a vacation with me uninterrupted. 5 short days in the Florida Keys.) The solution? My primary writing team mates were in Dubai and Jordan and they are usually up for the day by midnight. So kiss my sweet husband good night and stay up most of the night for 3 out of 5 nights writing and working on the proposal was how it had to be. It wasn’t a bad plan overall. I just came home from vacation completely fried.
Empathy asks us to rise above ourselves routinely. My husband had some wonderful revelations about the meaning for me behind my work, and his tolerance was admirable and loving for knowing my determination to complete it. And I adored that he wanted to spend uninterrupted time with me, and I sacrificed for it, and as a result, understood him better for having done so.
You see we all see things differently- through our eyes. Our lens. Our biases. Our shortcomings. Our genius. Our circumstances. What more can we give another than the opportunity to understand how we see things by being willing to do the same for them?
To give and receive empathically is all about good communication. It’s about fierce one’s too. It’s a two way street that works best as a tango.
And there is part of me that struggles with the issue of ‘positivity’ and how its expressed and communicated. Some of the most positive fierce conversations I have had with another, the ones which have resulted in enormous understanding and personal growth for me and for the relationship, were ones that at times were difficult to have. That’s what fierce means. When we have empathy for another and allow for fierce conversations to be had, there is indeed incredible positive growth; even if it is not pleasant to feel the pain of realization that comes from it. All good communication that is positive is not always pleasant at the time to go through.
I have to be honest- and say I struggle to feel empathy when fierce conversation cannot be had. I seem to be the only one in my family (through marriage) who seems to emotionally have some connection to the things other family members say or do; or at least the only one willing to own up to how they make me feel. I grew up in a family that expressed themselves- for better or worse- and they thrived doing so. So, its in my blood shall we say. It seems so obvious to me as an essential life ingredient- but not everyone sees what I do. And so it is up to me if I choose to use my gifts to express myself, to share my vulnerabilities and empathy too. We all must choose.
Love is confusing at times when people see life very differently. But we are all a product of our environments- some of which we choose and some of which we do not.
That’s why empathy is so incredible important. When we meet in the middle- or even farther than 1/2 way- love and trust grow. But when one of the two parties is completely inflexible, that’s when things wither on the vine. And the gift of life is all we truly, in the end, have to share and to remember into eternity.
Happy Thanksgiving friends. I am so thankful for the self learning and wisdom, through life, all my friends and family bring to me. To be touched by another who cared enough to speak up, and for the other to listen deeply and to respond thoughtfully, is the gift empathy brings.
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