The Fruit of Pain, Hardship, and Disappointment Is Empathy

Pain, hardships, and disappointment serve a valuable purpose in life.

Posted Sep 27, 2018

9nong/RF123
Source: 9nong/RF123

Pain, hardship, and disappointment are the seeds of empathy and understanding. When we are born, the world truly revolves around us. We cry and our parents feed us. We whimper and our soiled diapers get changed. We bellow and our parents comfort us. We become the center of the universe, at least in our parent’s world. We remain so until we reach the age when we realize that the world is greater than the small space in which we inhabit. As our world expands, we must interact with other people. We must understand life from their perspective. We must integrate our perspective of life with the perspectives of the people we meet throughout our lives. Integration is difficult because we only know the world through a singular perspective – our own.

Empathy is the means by which we understand life from another person’s perspective. Empathy is not possible unless we share the same or similar experiences as other people do. We cannot understand hurt until we hurt. We cannot understand disappointment until we are disappointed. We cannot understand sorrow until we feel sorrow. True empathy and understanding take place only when we have something against which we can judge the physical and emotional experiences of others. The accumulation of our personal experiences becomes standard against which we judge other people’s behaviors and emotions.

If we see a person fall and scrape their knees, we can empathize with that person because we fell and scraped our knees in the past. We know the sorrow of death when others lose a relative or friend because we too have lost loved ones and know how we felt. Our personal experiences allow us to extend those feelings to the person who experienced or is experiencing the same or similar event.

Unfortunately, in order to develop true empathy, we must suffer the same pain and hardship as do the people we empathize with. If we do not suffer the same pain and hardship, we have nothing against which to judge other people’s pain and hardships. The older we get the more empathic we become because we have amassed a long list of pain, hardships, and disappointments. 

Pain, hardships, and disappointment serve a valuable purpose in life, although we seldom see the value while we are in the middle of our own angst. The true value of our suffering is realized when we are able to comfort people who suffer or suffered as we did. Empathy is the bond that binds one person to another. True empathic bonds bring about a deep understanding of another person and ultimately brings joy. A joy we would never experience without pain, hardship, and disappointment.