friday’s “secret”: practice empathy when you can, sympathy when you can’t

This post was inspired by my thoughts while listening to the sixth episode of Modern Mrs. Darcy’s What Should I Read Next. Anne and her guest, Tsh Oxenreider, spent a little time discussing the book, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. Both of them didn’t particularly care for the book and abandoned it but after reading Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar, also by Strayed, Anne said that she had more insight into Strayed’s life experiences and was thinking of giving Wild another shot.

I read Wild last year and while it isn’t one of my favorite books, I enjoyed it because I wanted to read about Cheryl’s journey, hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. I personally wanted to know how she could go out into the wild, alone, while never hiking before. I was curious as to how she dealt with the fear and I wanted to read her story. And while I wouldn’t have made some of the choices that Cheryl made, I realized that the book was a story about a certain time of her life and it is highly unlikely that who she was then who she is now. I’m different and I don’t know if any book can tell an entire story; it can only give us glimpses into certain aspects, certain thoughts, and certain experiences of someone at that particular time.

Which is also what we are only able to see of each other in actual life. It made me think about how we, in our humanness, often make judgments about other people, often times not knowing their story. And when we do know bits and pieces, we are quick to judge without empathy (if that is possible) or sympathy (when empathizing is not available).

I did this all the time. But life had a way of showing me a lot of my flaws, causing me to be empathetic to a lot of situations. Plus, in attempting to connect with others in a sincere and authentic way, I have begun to be more sympathetic to others.

I don’t know if anyone can tell that I am making the effort but I am a lot happier. No judgment here! And it’s a lot easier to…

…enjoy life.

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