“The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us? We have all known the long loneliness, and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.” -Dorothy Day
There is a lot of conversation these days about empathy–the lack of it in certain places and the essential need for it in a time of a global pandemic and civil unrest. Empathy comes from the same root as compassion, pathos, which means feelings or emotions. However, unlike compassion, empathy isn’t about jumping into action but rather to take the perspective and feel the feelings of another. It is about daring to sit and imagine what they must be going through…to envision walking a mile in their shoes first to understand. In 2020, almost everyone I know is going through something transformative. Empathy invites us to develop the ability to hold all that without coming to any judgment of each other. Our world is in a fragile space both inside ourselves as well as outside in the village square.
Empathy also shares the same base as the word pathology, which is the study of our disease. The growing dis-ease in our society has been building on many fronts. Like the tip of a domino, the pandemic has affected everything, and we have to decide how we will move forward. We cannot hide what has been bubbling up to the surface and boiling over. So much loss, pain, and frustration has happened unequally for too many. It is happening at every level. I know so many friends who had big plans for this year. We did. We finally felt we were turning a corner, and 2020 sounded like the big year. We had no idea how big a year it would be, and as we enter into the last months before the election, we hold our breath, hoping for a positive outcome that moves us forward together.
In the Civil Graces Project, I focus on ways to find common ground with one another in the space of growing polarity and civil unrest. It has gotten more and more intense in the past weeks as we clutch to our identities and roles. We are at a point where we have a choice–will we declare a revolution of the heart, or will we continue to collide with one another? How much are we willing to risk to be right and to have the final say? How much could we gain if we tried to see it from each others’ points of view? Maybe we are being asked not to be critical of one another but to seek the wisdom that can guide us back to the center.
Having spent time on both sides of the political debate, I think there is a lot of fear in everyone’s hearts right now on both sides. It is the fear of the unknown and the worry that maybe people don’t care anymore. It is the energy of lack and ego, that feeling that I will have less if I give to you. Can you imagine if we shifted to the heart? Would you feel better if you knew there were more of us who cared and wanted a world that is equal and just for all? Would that make you feel more empowered? Would it make you want to risk reaching out if the odds were that there is more that we share in common? The numbers show we do–more people care and are willing to work for a better world.
I have spent time looking at the significant issues of our society. In fact, as a candidate, I took a lot of time looking at both sides and trying to find the facts. I wanted to know what would move our country forward instead of each of us beating the other up. Many campaigns and candidates use words that incite emotions without offering any solutions or resolutions. Too many are looking to control and cause arguments in areas where if we trusted one another and made sure everyone had an equal chance, the problem could be less. Are we willing to step outside of our comfort zone and consider what another must be feeling?
How would you feel, for example, to continually worry about your safety and that of your loved ones because of the way you looked? How would it feel to achieve what you thought was successful, and have someone take it away? How would it feel to be discriminated against because of what you believe, where you came from, or who you love? How would it feel to want so badly to be healthy and feel better, but you can’t get there? It is just out of reach. How would it feel to lose your job when you did all the right things, and it was someone else’s decision? What does it feel to lose someone you love and not be able to be there to kiss them goodbye? What would it feel like to not know where your child is? And here is a big one, what does it feel like to think your life is not worth living?
These are just some of the worries people are carrying each day. Mental health issues are at an all-time high. I know I am probably preaching to the choir on this. Yet we cannot do this alone, and the more we push for “my rights” over another’s rights, we sink further into the quicksand. We see it every day as more people are getting sick and dying, and we are feeling hopeless that there is anything we can do.
I believe there is so much each of us can do, but it starts with going within and reconnecting to your heart. What is essential are the things we cannot touch, and money cannot buy. When we are honest with ourselves, we know that love matters. We know that telling the truth and showing up is vital to making democracy work. One side cannot manipulate the outcome and say there was a “win” for the people, no matter what side it is. And let’s just consider the outcome of what some propose—suppose we don’t take care of people and make sure there is equality. In that case, it will cost us more than if we dared to come together and consider a different perspective and holistic solutions. We can find ways forward and can afford to make them happen. We just have to want to do it. We are more powerful than ever before because we have access to information and sharing ideas. If we are willing to cross over to the field of common ground, empathy is the power that will help us create a world that works for all.
The year 2020 begins a new decade and a new era. We have an opportunity to create that more perfect union with each other. Being able to connect on a deeper level will help heal the wounded areas. We have to acknowledge and forgive. We need to see the world in each others’ eyes, and as native cultures have wisely stated, the path to a new understanding starts by taking the first step on the longest voyage on Earth…from the head to the heart.