During the past two days, it’s been amazing to me how many opportunities I’ve had to be in empathy with another person. With people from 10 to 60, at work and church and home, I’ve had chances to walk a proverbial mile in someone else’s shoes. I know for many of you, this is nothing knew. But for me it’s basically uncharted territory.
Until recently, I maintained a pretty consistent dislike for most people and outright hatred for a few. Obviously, I realized that had to change…about this time last year I decided it was better for my own spirit to let go of all that negativity. I decided it would be better for me to start looking at people a little differently. I decided it was better for my soul to start assuming that other people were doing the best they possibly could with everything in their “toolkit” in whatever situation we were in.
This year I’ve been stepping it up a little, trying to live my faith more. One of the central teachings of my faith is to love my “neighbor” as myself. Who is my neighbor? I define it as anyone whose path crosses mine, for any length of time, for any purpose.
And how do I love my neighbor as myself? Recently, I’ve been seeing that in terms of trying to walk a mile in their shoes and extending a little grace towards that person. For example, if I’m in a checkout line at the supermarket and the person in line behind me is grouchy acting, I’m learning to think “maybe she’s had a rough day and just wants to get home and see her kids.” And I try to give her a little grace by turning around and saying “I’d like you to go in front of me.”
Am I really good at this? Not even close. I still have to make a conscious effort to stop myself from thinking “man, what a jerk” and change my thinking to “man, I wonder what’s gone wrong for that guy up to now”. But I’m learning.
And to get back to the beginning of this post. I’ve had a ton of opportunities to pause and look at another person with a whole different set of love-powered eyes. And based on how much better I feel about the each of those situations…based on how much lighter my soul feels…I want to keep learning this until it’s second nature.