There is so much I thought I knew... in my business and personal life I really thought that I understood what another was going through because I'd gone through something similar. With empathy at the core, I attempted to relate, advise, coach, and teach on everything from sales training to business strategy to the painstaking challenges of growth. I had a strong voice for keynotes, and I was therefore in high demand on stages across the country. I focused on the importance of bringing empathy back into healthcare, placing it at the center of an organization's brand and making it an authentic cornerstone of all aspects of operations. It was a powerful message, one that arose out of the pain of walking the hospice path with my former father in law.
While my words were motivational and inspiring to business entities, I had a lot to learn about empathy in the very human to human interactions of daily life. My former understanding of empathy placed me at the center of relating to another. In other words, I found myself saying..."I too have traveled a road like that so I understand how you feel. "
As much as I don't want to acknowledge it at times, there's an arrogance that can accompany this kind of empathy. Even with the best of intentions, I find myself judging the other person because i'm only looking through my own experiential lens.
How could I possibly know what it's like to stand in their shoes?
I can't. This is among the most humbling realizations of my life so far. It's why I embrace the "little way" of Franciscan Theology, and do my very best to acknowledge the reality that I don't know what another is experiencing...i simply can offer to walk with them, sit beside them, or hold them in prayer.
Today, i'm learning to use my voice in new ways. I'm learning to listen without attempting to relate from my own life experiences.... and instead attempt to relate from the field that Rumi describes..."Out beyond ideas of right and wrong is a field, and I'll meet you there. "
Alas, i'm also human. So i'm I know I'll make mistakes and exist in the non dualism of my own failures. I suppose that's why Maya Angelou said that "when you know better you do better. "
Today's meditation may give rise to more meditations.... and if they do...I will share them as i'm realizing that my voice is emerging and i'm choosing to let it flow. Perhaps using my voice in this way will heal me as it has done for so many others. I cannot know; I simply keep walking.