Empathy for a Dying World
As tragedy continues to swallow up the world, I find myself being swallowed by deep aching and grieving. My groans and sighs are mere droplets of the turmoil I feel stirring in my soul on a daily basis. Though I am safe to word vomit to my closest circle of friends and family about my fears, frustrations, and roaring passions (some fueled by anger against the foulness stalking about the earth), I have struggled to articulate my perspective to the rest of the people with whom I engage rather regularly.
My last blog post "Empathy and Insight" was a first attempt at expressing how difficult it is for me to see multi-faceted situations and accurately share my take on them because my nature cares about everyone on both sides of a fence. This is my second attempt at expressing my thoughts about and experiences with empathy.
A Little Background About My Empathy:
I have been "Switzerland" in many scenarios for as long as I can remember. I have lost count of the number of times I've been a mediator, a peacemaker, or even a wall, if necessary, between people who cannot seem to get along/understand one another or who who've fallen in some toxic holes together and need separating. Being Switzerland and having the capacity to love both parties is a result of my empathy.
Empathy allows me to see reasons people choose a side of (or end up in) a situation even if I myself stand on the other side or have never been through said situation. Empathy allows me to still welcome those with whom I disagree to dwell with me on a common ground of love, respect, and kindness regardless of our differing perspectives, opinions, feelings, etc. For that, I'm grateful.
On the other side of the coin, my empathy feels like a burden a majority of the time, not only to me but, I feel, to others. It's a gift. I know that deep in my spirit. However, the weight I carry to the cross every day is heavy. My aforementioned close circle helps me navigate it and often come alongside me to share the weight, but I experience it on the regular.
For as much as empathy can encapsulate grief, more or less, burdens are to empathy as loss is to grief. You grieve many memories/qualities about a lost loved one over a period of time and, eventually (hopefully) find peace over them, but when there is a recalled yet-to-be-addressed memory/quality that sneaks up later, you must grieve all over again to make peace with that part of your loved one, too. Similarly, it's not that I constantly fail to give burdens over to Christ. It's that there are new burdens or new pieces of previous burdens to continue laying down every day.
Why This Is Relevant:
Over the last few months, my empathy has circled two particular topics for which I carry burdens. These two topics are non-negotiable for me, and every time something new presents itself within these topics, I grieve and have to lay the burden down. To be non-negotiable is a big deal because, as I said, I tend to stand on the highest ground possible to gain as much perspective as I can so I love my neighbors well (regardless of occasional disagreement). While I try to accrue insight from research and understanding from various voices to best approach a war zone of controversy, I stand firm on a few principles with unwavering certainty.
The first topic is racial injustice. For me, the bottom line for me is that racism still sickeningly exists and it is wrong. I don't need to go into defensive mode about how my white family has seen financial struggle and how we didn't own slaves. No one is negating those two statements. However, those two statements (while true) don't negate the absolute truth that racism is wrong. Period. No space to argue that concept. Personally, I want to spend less time defending my perspective because of my own experience and more time acting on my empathy by combating the hatred I see between communities. I want my empathy (my ability to experience others' deep mourning and deep joy) to push me forward hand-in-hand with my African American, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, European, etc. brothers and sisters.
This is not about rioting for me. This is not about looting for me. Those are two other issues in and of themselves outside of racism, and I'm not speaking about those now. This is about sitting down with my peers and hearing their stories, feeling their pain, defending their beautiful skin, and working with them on a better tomorrow for us all.
The second topic is sex/human trafficking. I do not care if a conspiracy is just that about a company. The fact that there is even a question mark and a lot of raised eyebrows is enough for me to do some digging. Sex/human trafficking is unacceptable, disturbing, and heartbreaking. Why are so many spending their breath and time defending Wayfair instead of researching the truth about this extremely organized and covert (but less covert by the day) trafficking ring so that they can help pin down the real culprits? Whether it turns out to be Wayfair or Company XYZ, demanding the truth and seeking to uncover it is what matters here. There is corruption everywhere, especially under our noses and including companies you are too selfish to investigate. Issues hide in plain sight, yet we lollygag because ignorance feels more comfortable and inclusive.
Furthermore, pedophilia is not a sexual orientation. You cannot convince me that it is normal/natural for anyone to look at a child and become sexually aroused. Did that sentence make your skin crawl the way it does mine? Good. Start calling out inappropriate behavior when you see it and stop turning a blind eye. You could be the reason a child's or teen's or anyone's life is saved from sexual assault, sexual abuse, suicide as a result of trauma, etc. Note that it doesn't only happen to females; it happens to males, too.
The Bottom Line:
I'm not sorry if it makes you uncomfortable to talk about tough topics. We need to get uncomfortable--out of our own bubbles--if we are going to make a difference in the world. If we would all put more energy into tackling the problems at hand together instead of arguing about them, we would see more justice and more peace on various fronts, including these two. Unfortunately, I don't believe we will see complete eradication of these problems and others alike as evil will rear its head till the dying of the sun, but I do believe we all have a responsibility to one another and ourselves to actively pursue righteousness (virtue, integrity, morality). I'm challenging whoever reads this to seek it with me.