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Essential Empathy

There was a single moment of clarity when I deeply understood that my union was crumbling. We sat side by side on a couch in front of the marriage counselor. I don’t recall the topic being discussed, however there was an unforgettable utterance.

When are we going to stop talking about this cancer stuff? Can’t we just move on?

This sentiment seemed so hurtful and void of any understanding. Looking back, I now see my ex-husband was in such pain and desperately wanted to change our horrific narrative. Can we close the door on the past, turn the page for a fresh start, or walk away from the wreckage? Consumed with my own tragedies, I lacked the ability to “walk in his shoes.” Time and healing has allowed me to find forgiveness for both of those grieving souls.

Compassion, sympathy, and empathy are often used interchangeably to describe one’s ability to relate and connect with another’s situation. Each of these terms is unique and distinct in appearance when displayed in our relationships. I am blessed with a multitude of individuals that sympathize and show me unending compassion. However, there are precious few that made the choice to deeply connect. These people have allowed me to express my struggles, listened without judgment, and were open to sharing their truths.

In my role as a speaker, I have the privilege of meeting a diverse group of people that share tender emotions produced from adversity. The knowledge that I am woefully inadequate in ending their pain filled me with such fear. I found myself wanting to look deeply into the eyes of the sufferer while at the same time loudly asking…”Can’t we just move on?” With shock and horror, I was oppressed and longing for an escape.

How close do you want to get to the people in your world? Creating lasting connections will force you to become empathetic to those that you might otherwise wish to ignore. You must awaken the parts of yourself that truly understand what another person is facing, thus allowing a bond to form. Your presence whispers, “I’m not going anywhere.” Miraculously, empathy does not keep us paralyzed in the place of darkness. This unselfish gift offered by another is the necessary spark that reignites the flame of hope deep within.