“Empathy is really the opposite of spiritual meanness. It's the capacity to understand that every war is both won and lost. And that someone else's pain is as meaningful as your own.”
Right now in the world, there is a lot of anger toward immigrants. Fear about all the accommodations that must be made to have so many foreign born people flooding into countries that are different ethnically and linguistically. Fear that they will take jobs away, fear that they will deplete our resources. Fear that they will change our cultures with their difference. The common denominator is fear. Then, take a minute to think about what you would do in their circumstances. If your homeland was being torn apart by war, if you were watching your children starve and buildings and human beings blown up around you every day—what would you do? Without brushing away the possibility that it could ever happen to you—without saying, “Well, I don't know, but they just need to go home,” give it some thought—what would I do?
We do have our own problems, no doubt. We have an infrastructure that is sixty years, sometimes one hundred years, old; we have fires burning down entire communities, and floods swamping towns, a heroin epidemic that is killing our children every single day, and gun violence that is off the charts in the so-called civilized world. Our pain is real—but so is theirs. Sixty-five million people are living in refugee camps on planet earth at this very moment. That's more people than are living in the states of California, New York, and Florida combined. Try to wrap your head around that. Try to imagine what it would be like for you to live in a refugee camp without even the basic amenities of clean water and bathroom facilities.
Empathy is the opposite of spiritual meanness and, I would add, the opposite of spiritual indifference. It means that we take another persons world view, that we honestly try to imagine walking in their shoes. It means that we think deeply about how we would cope if we were in their circumstances. It means that we see their pain and fear as just as real and legitimate as our own. We need more empathy in the world right now. Let it begin with us.
In the Spirit,