Monday, October 31, 2011



the ability to put ourselves in others' shoes;

feeling the pain with hurting people.

It's not about trying to change people into what we think is best. It's about meeting people where they are. It's about listening without shoving our advice down their throats. It's about "knowing where they're coming from."

But how can we put ourselves in others' shoes if we're not willing to learn about the ground others' walk (or have walked) on? If my ground is the only right ground, then other ground is usually avoided. It's difficult to put ourselves in others' shoes if we remain overly sheltered, not seeing how others' live -- not being involved in others' lives and struggles, people from different walks of life.

I've eaten with the homeless in DC on more than one occasion, sat in the Oval Office, lived in near-poverty and lived in luxury; city, country, and in between. I'm excited about the many more life experiences to come, and mainly to get to know and understand others. Life is so RICH!

My life experiences, whether perceived as good or bad, are there to teach me. As I heard someone say recently, "Our life experiences don't happen TO us, they happen FOR us."

Our experiences living with the plain groups were also deep learning experiences, and I hope to write a book some day about it. My husband and I have chronicled those experiences through journaling, and we scribble notes and ideas as we talk. But I'll wait until some time passes so I can be more objective and have developed a bit more empathy. :)

Empathy allows for understanding. "Understanding is the beginning of wisdom," as the Psalm reminds us. So the opposite of that would mean "ignorance is unwillingness or inability to understand." In the past when I would say, "I just don't understand how....," I was acknowledging the fact that I lacked empathy, thereby lacking wisdom.

I would say that empathy is one of the most important character qualities that we can develop in life. To be able to say honestly and really feel it, "But for the grace of God, there go I," and to have true compassion for all, realizing that if it was us, we'd want that same non-judgmental treatment, understanding and love. You never know, some day it just MAY be you.

Do we greet the dirty homeless man with a smoking cigarette hanging out of his mouth the same as we do our pastor or leader when walking into our place of worship? Do we bless him with the same understanding, compassionate smile? That could be the only smile he gets that day. That smile could say to him, "You're important, you matter, and I understand."

Or do we turn our head away in disgust, thinking "I'm glad I'm not like that."

Do we have the decency and courage to look him in the eye, or do we abruptly divert our eyes onto the sidewalk, scared to acknowledge him? Acknowledgment is a great human need.

So, deep down we're all alike. We just have different circumstances and obstacles -- different lessons to learn.

"Some great people make others feel small,
but the greatest people of all make others feel tall."


Corinne Rodrigues said...

This is such a powerful post, JimiAnn. You made me stop in my tracks and think deeply about my own behaviour...

Just had to share it...

Colleen said...

I really enjoyed this post and also reading about you and your family in the intro! I work on having empathy and think it is very important to strive for. We are too quick to dismiss others and far too quick to judge (I am also including myself in this sweeping statement.:) I think we should live in a way that we seek wisdom and learn things like compassion and empathy...your post really inspires me with it's gentle wisdom so thank you!

(I also look forward to reading more here...I have fallen out of blogging in the last month or so myself but at some point I'm sure I'll take it up again with a vengeance. :)

Have a lovely week.