Tuesday, June 10, 2014


When did we lose the ability to empathize with people?

Last month when the weather should have been spring like, and we were still in the grip of what felt like Narnia winter I posted on facebook what I thought was a joke about being behind on the gas bill...

Dear Mother Nature,
It's the middle of MAY-I don't care how many shares of Missouri Gas Energy you have in your retirement portfolio-I am NOT turning the heat on today. 
Shivering under a quilt

Dear Mother Nature,
It's May 16. 36 degrees and a frost advisory, seriously? I'll need to find a corner and a cardboard sign to ever catch up on funding your retirement.

One of my 'friends' messaged me that they would be unfriending me because I was 'whining about being poor again.' Granted, I am not always as funny as I think I am, but 'unfriend' me for a couple of jokes about the weather?

Recently, on a message board I frequent a woman who is being treated for breast cancer vented about the paperwork needed to apply for medical financial assistance, and another poster went off on her. How dare she whine about wanting charity. She called her an ingrate and churlish. Seriously. Of course in the resulting conversation we find out that the one calling the cancer patient out had received 'financial assistance' in the past. So, for her it was 'financial assistance', but for someone else it was 'charity'.

So how did we get to the place where I can't joke about the weather or my financial problems without being considered a whiner, or a cancer patient can't vent without being shamed for needing help?

"Empathy is really the opposite of spiritual meanness. It's the capacity to understand that every war is both won and lost. And that someone else's pain is as meaningful as your own."~~Barbara Kingsolver

Empathy goes many directions. When we lose the ability to empathize, we not only lose the ability to understand and share when people are having hard times, we lose the ability to be joyful when they are being blessed. And I think that, leads to what Barbara Kingsolver describes as spiritual meanness.

So, do I need to not make jokes about my hard times? A sense of humor (and some awesome friends) helps me get through the days. Do we need to censor and not share our frustrations for fear that some else in our community has lost the ability to empathize? That won't work for me.

What will work for me is to remind myself and others that even though life is hard, I will get caught up some day because my list of blessings is longer than my list of troubles-even on days I can't see that.

So, I am sorry to have lost a friend. I wish I could have taught her to laugh with me. Because the truth is being behind on the gas bill, or having a really bare pantry because money is tight may be a problem. But, losing the ability to empathize is a far worse affliction.

The truth is in that old saying...Shared joy is joy doubled. Shared sorrow is sorrow halved. THAT is empathy in a nutshell!

Peace and Blessings,


Kim said...

Beautiful post. I think sharing in the lives of others is a gift. Celebrating with them joyfully and holding them up in times of need. What helps me the most is remembering "there but for the grace of God go I". Keep on writing

Groote's Gaggle said...

Isn't this your birthday month? Not that it has anything to do with your post but-- just thinking.

Groote's Gaggle said...

Seriously, if someone needs to unfriend you because your broke, short on money--whatever..... or just doesn't know what life is like to walk in your shoes; consider the unfriending a blessing,

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