Empathy, uncomfortable shoes

Corporate communications employ a question at the end of their email to determine who and how many people have read what has been emailed. This past week’s corporate communications question resulted in a vast majority of readers preferring to walk in shoes with a tiny pebble versus wearing wet socks.

It is easy to flick a tiny pebble from the bottom of a shoe versus having to sit down to take off the shoes and then struggle to tug off a wet sock. Wet socks take more time and effort than a pebble. Empathy is much like the pebble versus wet socks question. The Dali Lama would remind us, “Empathy is the most precious quality.”

Empathy, uncomfortable shoes

My current favorite television series is Billions on Showtime®. I am deeply affected by the character, Taylor Mason, a non-binary on the show played by the actor, Asia Kate Dillon who is also non-binary and uses singular they pronouns in real life. I love the character and they are an extraordinary actor particularly in the role of Taylor Mason. Asia has the German word, ‘Einfühlung’ tattooed on the left side of their neck which translates to ‘empathy.’ I would like that same tattoo albeit not on the neck (ouch!) which is precisely the point of its’ placement by my guess.

I am walking in the shoes of the singular they pronouns in my own life as my son’s partner desires to be referred to as they, them, theirs. I admit I have stumbled in my pebbled shoe, yet I am beginning to become more accustomed to using singular pronouns while others in their wet socks grumble.

What moves me to feel and see as the other person?

Empathy requires a conscious component to intelligence, a self-awareness, and rationality. I would be unlikely to have the ability to entertain someone else’s perspective without a phenomenal consciousness like the proverbial pebble. It is that awareness that allows me to understand how others experience joy and pain, and not just humans. If I do not exploit this innate empathy gene, I can miss how it plays a role in my life from being able to have meaningful relationships, maintaining social order, to enjoying the humanities.

It is not enough to simply say, “I hear you.”

No matter what was done to me, and no matter what was done to another, we each have a soul. To participate in life, we are intimately involved with the fate of others and they in us. Only empathy, that expression of love, can connect my soul to another soul. When we walk in uncomfortable shoes of empathy whether it is expressed for own self-care or for others, we restore that lost connection to the soul that had required a tremendous amount of shame.

Empathy brings humans together and I will go further to say all earthly creatures by encouraging a sense of interconnectedness. Self-awareness of our feelings and belief systems are a part of that interconnectedness through our development of empathy. We do not have to sacrifice our own feelings or beliefs for that of another’s. In fact, the development of empathy and mutual respect frees us from the bond of isolation and the exaggeration of fear. Empathy is that essential quality to attaining harmony in mind, body, and spirit.


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