I wonder while I wander

…musings about this wild and wonderful world


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Creating meaningful connections…

What is the difference between sympathy and empathy, and how do they work to either alienate others or to build bridges and create true understanding and compassion?

 

Why is it so easy for us to resort to sympathy when a loved one shares a difficulty with us?

Is it in some way defensive, perhaps because we are intimidated by the negative emotions of others? Are we afraid to appear vulnerable or to open up to the needs of another person? Do we feel awkward and simply don’t know the appropriate thing to say or do? Do we feel like it is our responsibility to fix the other person or their problem, rather than just being fully present and witnessing the other’s experience?

How can we practice true empathy in our daily life with those around us?

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‘An attitude of openness, the willingness to recognize and accept the diversity of human experience and the spiritual values of other traditions and cultures, is essential in the practice of non-violence. We create true peace when we are inclusive of others. Yet inclusion and nonattachment to our opinions are sometimes difficult to practice. Exclusion, getting caught up my our views, is a deep-seated habit that arises from fear and misunderstanding of others. To transform our habit of excluding others, we must practice and develop understanding and compassion in all parts of our life.’

~ Thich Nhat Hanh, in Creating True Peace

There is a well known saying that it is better to be kind than to be right. I believe this is true, and yet, it can be such a challenge to really live out this belief. If you’re like me, you’ve invested a lot of time and effort into forming your particular beliefs and worldview, and these beliefs become an essential part of our concept of ourselves. In fact, it can feel that what we think and feel and believe is our True Self. It can be painful, frustrating, seemingly impossible to take a step back from those beliefs, to honestly attempt to understand the views of others, especially those we disagree with, and those who think or live in a way that conflicts with our beliefs.

If we are to live peacefully, peace cannot be just a concept. It must be a practice. It must be something we do. We must make it real. What steps can we take to create peace in our everyday lives? Is it truly possible to put our beliefs and opinions aside in order to connect in a heartfelt way with those who are different from us? What are the practical things we can do in our lives to grow in compassion and understanding with other people? 

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