Do you know what is a universal need? Empathy. We all need to be heard. We crave understanding. And do you know what is not natural? Empathy.
When we go to our friend and share our hearts, we are looking for compassion and seeking to deepen that bond. When we go to them, we just want our pain acknowledged and not shrugged off or ignored. This doesn’t mean pity or condescension, and it doesn’t mean they have to have a clue as to our experience.
For example, when Mom was sick, my friends were so young and had no clue what to say to me. (I wouldn’t have either.) Then when she died, we all pretty much avoided each other. Maybe it would have been better for them to just sit and be with me or hug me. Honestly, at the time, I was happy to avoid people that weren’t my family. I knew my family felt similar things to me and felt comfortable with them alone.
With age comes wisdom. The more life experiences we have, the easier we can access how a situation may be affecting a friend. Or how it would make us feel. We definitely miss the mark many times, but I think we can be taught. Empathy is not a given skill but is one that must be practiced and perfected.
I know now when someone comes to me, I never tell them I know how they feel. Even if I have had something similar happen, we all process things differently. I am not in their shoes, but I can still empathize with them. I can go back to a time when I felt something similar and think about those emotions.
Even the times I have no idea the pain someone is in, I can think about how it would make me feel. I can listen and just let them get it out. I should be sensitive to what they need. None of us truly want sympathy. To me, sympathy is too surface level to mean anything. Empathy, on the other hand, is when someone takes me by the hand and walks with me. They hurt with me and do their best to understand my feelings.
We all want someone who is willing to come alongside us in grief and sorrow. We want to have a strong connection with someone who will share our burden. But you know what? To have that means we also have to be that. We all have to be sensitive to when empathy is needed. When someone comes to us with their problem, we can’t tell them it doesn’t matter if it obviously matters to them. We can’t tell them we have had it worse and make them feel more alone. We need to be the listening ear they need and the shoulder to cry on.
Just imagine the world if we could be there for each other. Knowing someone has our backs may make all the difference one day. Let’s start using empathy and showing those we love just how much they mean to us. We may be just what they need TODAY.
Linking with Holley Gerth