“Empathy is the most mysterious transaction that the human soul can have, and it’s accessible to all of us, but we have to give ourselves the opportunity to identify, to plunge ourselves in a story where we see the world from the bottom up or through another’s eyes or heart.” – Sue Monk Kidd
The axiom to “Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” is a cliche worn with repetition that deserves to be revitalized in today’s world more than ever before. Despite the continued and steady technological advancement of human society, empathy, the ability to relate to and feel the energy of another living being, is being left behind the curve. As the human networks continue to flourish, the authentic connections that keep us in touch with ourselves and the world go on to atrophy from lack of use. The shrinking bubble of self-absorption is restricting the ability of others to act out of compassion for fellow human beings and all living creatures. The empathy shortage taking place is breeding the lack of understanding that causes the suffering society is quick to conceptualize on without true action.
Racial tension, political infighting, the division of nations and the wars we wage all stem from not connecting and seeing the one within the whole and the whole within the one. We deforest and destroy the homes of humans and animals because we do not identify with the fear of being displaced and without refuge. We persecute those of a different ethnicity because we do not see the humanity in their eyes due to the color of their skin or the caste they were born into. We mock and scorn a woman who would stay in an abusive relationship because we fail to empathize with the fear of leaving everything behind without certainty of a future. We have forgotten how to walk a mile in another person’s shoes because we haven’t walked even a mile within the depths of our own souls. There is where empathy is buried.
Empathy is more than imagining the spectrum of emotions of others; it is to feel the emotions as if they were your own. In order to truly feel the essence of another, you have to be aware of what you felt in the continuum of all your experiences. Awareness is where empathy is mined. To recognize the humanity in the eyes of another person is the same as acknowledging the intrinsic purpose of a flower. The essence is the same but infinitely different in degree. The ability to be aware of the thread that runs through the existence of every living being allows us to judge fairly, to live harmoniously, and to connect deeply with the same thread that runs through our own existence.
The price we pay for empathy is an unselfish life. The reward for compassion is a more healed world. A world where intimacy is a part of simply existing within the same fabric of the universe; to see into the spirit of everything that lives and has its being in this reality and beyond. No matter the race, socioeconomic status, political leaning, nationality, or species. May we not be afraid to go within ourselves to reach out to the soul of another. May we see that we are all the apple within the eye of the tree of life. May we see a friend within a flower; a shaman in the trees; wisdom within the destitute; a guest in a refugee. May we walk a mile in someone else’s shoes and not grow tired on the way to better understanding. There is where empathy abounds.
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