A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Another friend’s husband has just lost his job. Arden and I have been helping Nick learn to deal with the side affects of increasing his seizure medicine to avoid seizure clusters. These are hard things. Each of these situations bring increased stress and heightened emotions.
People have said to me, “I couldn’t deal with what you are dealing with.” My answer is always the same, “Perhaps that is true, I don’t know. But I am sure that your life experiences do create the same emotional responses in you that my life experiences create in me.”
Emotions are universal, cross-cultural, human experiences. We feel love and feel fear. We feel overwhelmed and feel peace. Recognizing these ubiquitous feelings helps us have compassion and empathy for others. I can’t say to my friend undergoing cancer treatments that I know what she is going through. I clearly don’t understand her fears, but I do understand my fears. I can relate to her emotions even though our situations are not exactly the same.
If we try to compare our life experiences to others experiences we risk minimizing one and exaggerating the other. Either way is not accurate. Everyone that I know has had experiences in their lives that have stretched them almost to the breaking point. Everyone also has had moments of extreme joy. These are common to everyone.
If we could begin to have compassion for others while they are going through their rough times and not judge whether their experience is harder or easier than what we have experienced; we would build bridges rather than create separation between us. This alone would help heal our society.
Open your eyes, ears and hearts. Notice what is going on around you. Find the common ground with others. You will find greater joy and love in your own life.
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