Empathy – the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another. – Dictionary.com
Maybe once every few years we read, hear or see something that is so profound it shakes our intellectual foundation to the very core, awakens our sleeping dogmas within, and causes us to reassess our world view. Yesterday was one of those times after watching the following 5-minute segment on Fareed Zakeria’s GPS.
We couldn’t understand why there isn’t 100 percent buy-in to reopen the economy only after the nation’s health officials sound the all the clear signal. It’s very complicated and Fareed helps us understand the context.
Context Is Everything
Context is everything if we are to understand the positions of those we disagree with or the actions of those we are so quick to judge. The following “Man on the Subway” from the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey is an extremely powerful story about context,
“I remember a mini-paradigm shift I experienced one Sunday morning on a subway in New York. People were sitting quietly – some reading newspapers, some lost in thought, some resting with their eyes closed. It was a calm, peaceful scene.
Then suddenly, a man and his children entered the subway car. The children were so loud and rambunctious that instantly the whole climate changed.
The man sat down next to me and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the situation. The children were yelling back and forth, throwing things, even grabbing people’s papers. It was very disturbing. And yet, the man sitting next to me did nothing.
It was difficult not to feel irritated. I could not believe that he could be so insensitive as to let his children run wild like that and do nothing about it, taking no responsibility at all. It was easy to see that everyone else on the subway felt irritated, too. So finally, with what I felt like was unusual patience and restraint, I turned to him and said, “Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more?”
The man lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, “Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what do think, and I guess they don’t know who to handle it either.”
Can you imagine what I felt at that moment? My paradigm shifted. Suddenly I saw things differently, and because I saw differently, I thought differently, I felt differently, I behaved differently. My irritation vanished. I didn’t have to worry about controlling my attitude or my behavior; my heart was filled with the man’s pain. Feelings of sympathy and compassion flowed freely. “Your wife just died? Oh I’m so sorry! Can you tell me about it? What can I do to help?” Everything changed in an instant.” – FLORA SAGA
We had a similar powerful paradigm shift yesterday after watching the following video.
Self-discovery, folks. Today’s pols, though not all of them, have little interest in healing and uniting our divided nation but have rather perfected and mastered the art of exploiting the anger and rage, which divides the body politic, for their own personal gain and political power.
We are so thankful to CF and Matthew Dowd – both, true saints, in our book – for helping us along in becoming more empathetic for and understanding of others during these very difficult days. Our country, and the world, for that matter, could use a
little lot more empathy.