Striving to Act in Empathy Instead of Jumping to Judgment
Seeing the good in others can help bring love and forgiveness into the world.
Posted Jan 11, 2019
The beginning of a new year means time for reflection and looking back on the previous one. For me in particular, it means focusing on what’s important and matters most in my life. I know there are many occasions to do this, but even so, I use every new year to look at the time that has passed and think about what makes me feel good, loved and fulfilled. Looking at these things, I always feel a deep sense of gratitude, humility and pride.
Life can be harsh sometimes, and parenting too, but when I think of my children and their immediacy, gratitude and deep love for life and each other I am comforted. My love for them and my life in general flows out of every nook in my body and nothing else seems to matter. There is nothing more meaningful than being self-aware in order to give our attention to the things we cherish in life. Through nourishment we can allow for them to grow in the most beautiful ways. Love brings hope to life, and as Buddha said: “When you like a flower, you just pluck it. But when you love a flower, you water it daily,” I could not agree more.
Although I have no problem feeling gratitude for the life I am living, it does not mean that I do not have concerns and negative thoughts. When I find myself dwelling on the negatives, my energy is consumed by them and I am left feeling frustrated, angry or powerless.
These feelings creep up and confront me often, making me feel as if I am on a roller coaster that never stops. To give you an example, I am some who lives life with a very open mind, and some people would describe this as naïve. Regardless, it is a characteristic of mine that has followed me through life, and I have learned to value my ability to see the best in everyone. I would much rather encounter people with an open heart and a curiosity to know them and understand them. Luckily for me, this comes easily, and is something that leaves me with very rewarding and life giving relationships. It is both a trait and a decision, and it is something that is tested time and again. Sometimes, I find myself facing a cruel reality, which contains a lot of narcissism, greed, and pettiness. These are values I do not view to be positive contributions to the world.
I once had a colleague who made me feel insecure, frustrated and powerless. Our values were obviously not coming from the same place, and for a long time I didn’t understand her motives because they were so far from mine. I therefore continued to believe she had good intentions, until I couldn’t ignore the fact that she used me for her own benefit. Things like this happen all the time, I am sure, but it doesn’t take away from the experience of finding myself in a position of discomfort. Although it is easy to place blame on others and divert the responsibility, it is important to take claim over your own life. Even though it is much simpler to find yourself in a position of judgement rather than vulnerability, there is only one person who can live your life – and that’s you. You are the only one in control of how you respond to certain people and situations you find yourself in. This is a lot easier said than done, and I find my brain completely clouded while I am processing and dealing with these types of experiences.
I always make an effort to listen honestly to my heart, taking into account the feelings that have arisen because I know that when I am able to breathe and think clearly again I will be able to let the past go. I have no doubt that hatred, fear and selfishness are always the outcome of bad experiences; lack of love, not being accepted or acknowledged, unfair or negative living conditions. No baby enters the world with bad intentions or as an evil being, and when I think of that I am comforted and encouraged to let go of what hurt me and see the person as the human they are.
I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, because often we set unrealistic goals that stray too far from reality. They quickly fail, leaving us feeling guilty and ashamed. This does not seem to be a very constructive way of pushing ourselves to reach our goals, in my opinion. Instead, I am a big fan of cleaning up your mind by reflecting both critically and honestly on how you are doing. It is about prioritizing and cutting out unnecessary parts of our lives that steal our energy instead of giving us energy.
In 2019 I will continue to proceed with a naïve outlook, and I challenge others to do the same. If we could all be better at empathizing with ourselves a bit more and taking care of our unconscious afflictions and wounded feelings, then we wouldn’t feel a need to degrade, judge or fear the actions of others. We wouldn’t need to build up any walls. Let us be kind and clean up our own inner and outer spaces, because the world needs us to connect and embrace each other in a more loving, empathetic and tolerant way, and that’s only possible if we are full of love and forgiveness for ourselves.
Wishing you a healthy and happy New Year.