Lately I’ve found myself thinking about how I relate to others…and I how I seem to be lacking a sympathy gene. I read this very poignant blog post the other day and felt guilty that I could not be as understanding and enlightened as its writer, Mandy.
I am the person who doles out tough love like I have an endless supply. I will tell you to quit crying and find a solution. Figure out how to make your life better. Figure out how to get to the place you want to be. Stop going down the same path again and again and expecting a different result. I don’t think I’m good at comforting…
A friend of mine was telling me yesterday about her broken ex-husband and how he isn’t over her and how she feels sorry for him. Why would anyone feel sorry for him, I thought. He made a series of choices that led him to where he is. He chose to not take responsibility for his life. He chooses to play the victim. No sympathy from me.
And he’s not the only one who doesn’t get it.
Because of this great thing called choice, it’s hard for me to feel sorry for people who—even in the most difficult circumstances—cannot make better choices for themselves. Does it take hard work? Yes. Is it easier to whine and focus on being stuck and unhappy? Yes. But there’s always a new path to be blazed. And unless you’ve exhausted every option and have held yourself fully accountable, I just don’t really feel sorry for you.
But then I flip over to the liberal, bleeding heart side…
I attended a portion of The Women’s Conference of California in Long Beach this week and found myself yearning to be like the remarkable women who received Minerva Awards. This honor is given for work done to improve individual communities and the world. One of this year’s recipients set up a tutoring program for homeless children. Another created a rehab facility for native Americans. Another built a hospice center for dying children and their families. And the last was environmentalist and defender/researcher of the chimpanzee population, Jane Goodall.
Watching these women’s stories made me feel so inspired. What could I be doing to make my world better? How could I reach out and help people? I felt so strongly that I wanted to do something like they had. That I needed to do something.
Why doesn’t this feeling strike me when it comes to the people I know personally? Maybe I hold them to a higher standard? It seems like a big disconnect.
Anyone else out there experience anything similar? Or are you all great sympathizers? And if so, what advice can you give me to be more understanding of the people around me?