“When we are honest, we admit how agreeable it can feel to be singled out for favored treatment. The biggest barrier to equality for all is that inequality for some feels good.”
-Philip Gulley, The Awakened Soul, Part 12: Democratic Character Structure
“As bad and frightening as mind-based forgetfulness can be, it is in no way as damaging as soul-based forgetfulness, when we forget what it means to be human, when we can no longer identify with the forgotten, the outcast, the poor, the hurting, the left out, and the left behind.”
-Philip Gulley, The Awakened Soul, Part 13: When the Soul Forgets
This has been on my mind a lot over the last week. I read the pieces in which they are contained toward the beginning of the week, and have had little time to think about them very much.
I lied in my last post when I said that I had not written anything in my notebook this week, because I did write these passages, and jotted down some thoughts concerning them. I am going to begin there and see where this goes…
I admit that empathy is not my go to reaction all of the time. Often, my knee jerk reaction is something more negative when it comes to someone screwing up, underachieving, making a bad decision, or otherwise living in a way with which I disagree. This has a lot to do with my patience, which in some cases is nonexistent, especially when it comes to what translates in my mind as willful ignorance, stupidity, or laziness. One thing that I am just as impatient about, and have a negative reaction toward, is when I hear or see another refusing to sympathize or empathize with another human being that has done no wrong toward anyone. I guess in some ways that makes me a hypocrite.
Usually, once I slow down to think about these things, I see the error of my ways, but there are occasions when such will never happen. One instance is willful intolerance, or willfully intolerant people; especially those that are intolerant of people who do no harm to others in any way. Their intolerance is fueled by a lack of empathy because they refuse to understand something, or someone, that is wholly different from them or what they believe. However, in order to have or show empathy, one need not agree with another. They do not even really need to understand what it is they are refusing to tolerate. They simply need to understand what their actions are doing to those whom they are showing their intolerance.
It goes back to one of the above quotes from Philip Gulley. Regardless of our present stations in life, we have all been in a position that puts us against the fray or singled out from the status quo. We’ve all been there, and we remember how lonely it feels. We all have experienced being told that something we are doing is wrong, yet we know in our heart, our soul, that what we are doing is right, and we want nothing more than to have our actions or points of view accepted. We seek that connection with people, that connection that tells us that it is okay, that it will be okay, and life will go on. We seek empathy.
Without that empathetic connection, remembering that in some way we have been there and can identify with the down-trodden, we lose a bit of our soul. We lose a part of us that makes us distinctly human.
We are not perfect beings. We never will be. Not the first one of us. It is here that we are all equal. We all make bad decisions, and sometimes those decisions bring harm to ourselves or to others. With those decisions, there are always repercussions. When the harm is done to ourselves, hopefully we learn from it in order to not make the same decision again. When the harm is done to another, recompense must be brought to bear. With both cases, empathy is a necessary component to ensure neither happens again.
To simply say that one is undeserving of the same joys that others experience because they live a life that is different from the predominant world view is wrong, especially if that joy will bring happiness to them while not affecting another’s life in a negative way.
We have a challenge before us in that, as the first quote above illustrates, we all want to be given favored treatment for being right, or better yet, for being righteous. We are a prideful lot, even the most humble or penitent of us, and nothing fuels that pride more than the justification received when our actions or thoughts are given credence by those with whom we most strongly agree or identify.
We then forget that there are people that do not think the same way we do. People have different value systems; be they spiritual, material, or moral. As long as what is believed, or what one thinks, does not bring physical or mental harm to themselves or others, there is no need to degrade or tear those that do think or live differently down. Such only fuels an imaginary righteousness and puts people on different levels that do not exist but only in our own prideful minds.
We all have a right to live happily in the way that we choose, again, as long as that life does not bring physical or mental harm to ourselves or others. We all have a responsiblity to treat others in the manner with which we wish to be treated. These are rules that I was taught during my childhood. I have no doubt that many were taught just the same way.
I work on this daily. I take many deep breaths and do my best to understand positions that are counter to my own. It is hard…I mean hard, and sometimes I fail. It is a challenge, and will continue to be. It is a process; but one that will make me a better person in the long run, and will persist in making my life more pleasant and livable.
In essence, it is about bringing light to the lives of those we love, including ourselves, and those around us, rather than spreading darkness, and remembering that we all have a common core, a starting point that is inherently the same. We are all people. We are all human, and not one of us is perfect.
Now that is something with which I can empathize. Can you?