We’re all familiar with the saying “before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.” It’s an admonition to judge softly and accept that we truly don’t know another person’s struggles, until we’ve walked in their shoes.
When someone who doesn’t fully understand or empathize with us makes a snap judgement about us, it not only makes us angry, but it hurts. Who is this person to judge or criticize, when they haven’t even taken the time to understand my feelings? How can they know me, if they don’t even bother to understand my point of view?
Judging and making assumptions is something we’re all guilty of doing, but fortunately, its also something we can change about ourselves. Changing from a judgmental person to an empathetic person, is making the choice to be a healer and it’s one of the most beautiful things we can do as human beings — this quote from Ullie Kay sums it up nicely:
It takes a wounded soul to fully understand another wounded soul, I am convinced of it. Some of the most precious humans that I have come to know are caregivers, because they too have been there once – where it was dark, or burdensome or eerily quiet. They had to fight for something. Struggle through. Come fact-to-face with decisions that no one should ever have to make. And now, look at how they bravely shine their light for everybody else to see – tending to the broken, mending…always mending…still, with a few missing pieces here and there, but loving brightly nonetheless. What a beautiful thing it is to give because you have known lacking and longing and loneliness. I have come to believe that the hurt ones are the healers.
– Ullie Kaye
The hurt ones are the healers — the people who’ve experienced sadness, loneliness or fear are most often the ones who transform into the compassionate and kind people. It is the very people among us who have suffered, who most often become the positive beacons of light in our world, striving to heal and uplift everyone they meet. These healers embrace the one thing they were denied — empathy. Having been denied an empathetic ear themselves, they had to self-identify and understand their own feelings, because others chose not to…and it is this experience that opened them up to the powerful light of kindness and empathy.
How to be more empathetic
Acknowledge the problem: Many people don’t even realize that they lack empathy or high emotional intelligence. The first step is to admit its an area we want to work on and improve and head into it with an open heart and mind.
Become curious about people you don’t know: People with high EI (emotional intelligence) are naturally curious and interested in those around them. An empathetic person wants to understand the lives and experiences of others, so they may very well strike up conversations with strangers or observe others without judgement, simply because they’re open minded and genuine in their wish to make connections.
Focus on similarities and not differences: If we look for how we’re different from one another, we’re automatically looking at something to keep us apart. If however, we look for similarities, we’re looking for common ground and that means, opportunities to understand a person without being jaded by personal bias. We all have differences, but we also have similarities — look for those to help foster dialog, understanding and acceptance.
Put yourself in their shoes: One can’t truly be empathetic or a healer if they’re unwilling to see things from their view and life experiences. Don’t make assumptions or dismiss someone because they look different — get to know what has shaped their opinions, attitudes and behaviors.
Listen openly, but also share: Just as important as being an active and engaged listener, is sharing your thoughts, feeling and experiences. Empathy comes from understanding, but also, letting someone in so they get to know the real you as well.
Being a Healer
Empathetic people tend to be healers because often they’ve directly experienced loneliness, sadness or lack of self-esteem. Healers learn from their own experiences in life and make a vow to help others and to lift them up when they’re down. We are grateful for the empathetic healers of our world because it is they who mend the broken hearts and reinvigorate the spirits of those most in need of some good old fashioned kindness.