We have witnessed in recent days an outpouring of empathy in Orlando and across the country after a senseless tragedy. Why it takes a tragic moment to call that empathy forth I do not know. A similar outpouring of empathy has occurred in England as a result of the brutal murder of a young member of Parliament. This empathy brings people together; it builds community, and we need desperately to exercise it not only in moments of darkness, but in all moments and for all people. It does not take a rocket scientist to get hold of the fact that most people (even though they appear so calm and assured) have an incredible amount of tumult and pain in their lives. Every human being is wounded. Every human being needs someone to love them, listen to them, care for them, not superficially, but with the deepest empathy (“the ability to understand and share the feelings of another”).
Simultaneously, both here and in Britain, the very opposite of empathy (indifference, hatred, disagreement, discord, disunity, apathy, misunderstanding, unfeelingness) continues to run rampant (even though, in England, the “Get Britain Out” campaign has been suspended for a time). One English journalist wrote:
“Sometimes rhetoric has consequences. If you spend days, weeks, months, years telling people they are under threat, that their country has been stolen from them, that they have been betrayed and sold down the river, that their birthright has been pilfered, that their problem is they’re too slow to realize any of this is happening, that their problem is they’re not sufficiently mad as hell, then at some point, in some place, something or someone is going to snap. And then something terrible is going to happen.”
Yes, we are all wounded (it is universal) and our wounds are revealed in our perceptions of reality. Our wounds may be revealed in our fear, anger, lack of trust, our mixed-up values, our prejudices, our hates, and our self-centeredness. How we perceive the world around us makes all the difference. Is this a friendly world or is everyone out to do us in? Empathy or apathy? Empathy or hate?
We need more beautiful (how be it “wounded”) people in our world as Elisabeth Kubler-Ross reminds us. “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”