Have you ever given much thought to how you come across to others or how you are perceived by others? How your experiences effect or alter the lives of others? How they might internalize your experiences and then see you as your experiences?
Personally, I always try to be very conscious of how I use my words to portray anything I tell others. I do so in the hopes that I am sharing what I am going through without placing the person listening in a position whereby they feel they need to help me or fix anything. I mean after all, whatever I am sharing is my experience, and not theirs to carry. No matter what I am experiencing in my life, be it joy or sorrow, there is growth involved for me. Yet, in the moment of expressing myself, I am sure that it comes across differently to the ears that are listening. I suppose I could just chalk it up to being their experience of my experience, but it bothered me that I might be giving a false pretense. What came to me was this. “You process and work on whatever is bothering you. If something disappoints you, hurts you, brings you great joy, etc. you deal with it, work on it and release it. Essentially, you move beyond it. Yet the person who listened never hears that part unless you share.”
In the light of a few things lately I have contemplated not sharing my experiences with others. Conversation would tend to be rather boring perhaps, but it might stave off their pity. There is a fine line between empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, and pity – the feeling of sorrow and compassion caused by the suffering and misfortunes of others. Empathy is about supporting the other person while pity has us taking it personally and owning it. At least for me that is what it boils down to. It is subjective at best to figure out what empathy or compassion means to different people. Pity, however, has us feeling, and not the other person’s feelings, but our own.
I have sat with this thought for a few days, I have been drilling down on it during quiet moments, how do I share my experiences with others so that I don’t evoke pity from them? How do we listen to whatever is going on in the world and have empathy rather than pity?
Right now, in our world there is much suffering going on, yet to assume another is suffering can make matters worse. What happens is, you start to see the other person as “less than,” which in some ways contributes to their suffering and can hold them as victims, instead of helping them to overcome their situation. It means that when you pity someone you are not being the rock of support they need but rather are enabling them to stay in that state. Chances are we are still carrying a feeling left by their plight, while they have moved onward and upward.
Perhaps it comes down to looking at whatever plight the other person is going through and pondering how we would react, or resolve it, should we find ourselves in their shoes. It might mean pausing and checking in with our feelings around what others are experiencing. It might boil down to listening and knowing beyond a doubt they have this fully in hand and don’t need us to carry it as well. It is one thing to wallow in self-pity, but to be pitied leaves a bad taste in one’s whole being. Maybe, this is all my perception, something that I need to work on, but to me being pitied indicates that I don’t have the courage, the wit, or the strength to deal with what is going on. Worst though is that perhaps I pity others instead of having empathy, after all we are given a mirror in others to look at ourselves.
Bad things happen, that’s life, yet it is how we respond to what is happening that defines us. Most of us pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and carry on, making the most of a bad situation and leaving it behind us. I understand why we share our moments, both good and bad. It is part of processing our experiences and healing ourselves. We need the connection of being listened to by another, to perhaps have someone reach out and tell us it will be ok. And it will be ok – I don’t care what you are going through, in the end it always becomes ok -maybe we are given a hug, and ultimately, we feel like we have a support team. We want to feel like we are not alone, like we have someone to lean on when the going gets rough.
Sharing our experiences with others can allow them to have growth as well. Be sure to speak with integrity when sharing and try not to be the victim. Maybe that is the key between pity and empathy. If someone shares their experience with you, no matter how it leaves you feeling, or what it brings up within you, let go of placing them in your pity. If it brings up feelings within you, work on them and heal them within you, for it is then your experience. As for the friend, family member, or even the stranger on the street who openly shares, boost them with your empathy, and compassionately stand beside them offering support, fully knowing they can handle whatever has been brought to them. It will never not turn out ok, no matter the outcome, for each experience brings something to us. We might not see the benefits right away but somewhere, somehow, they will show up and leave us feeling richer and blessed for having had them.
Copyright (c) 2017 by Marlene Cobb. All rights reserved. You may quote, copy, translate and link to this article, in its entirety, on free, non-donation based websites only, as long as you include the author’s name and a working link to http://www.merrlina.com All other uses are strictly prohibited.