In Their Shoes
I believe that one of the secrets to a more loving world is empathy. Being able, even for just a second, to put yourself in another’s shoes in even the smallest way will enhance our feeling of Oneness while decreasing the amount of judgment we all encounter in our daily lives. It will increase our level of acceptance and tolerance and diminish the sense of superiority that allows us to justify the harmful way that we treat others at times.
Some kinds of empathy are easier to get in touch with than others. When someone’s family member or beloved pet transitions to the “spirit world”, most of us can empathize with the sense of lose that is felt. We have no problem empathizing with those who experience great joy and happiness at the birth of a child or the promotion they’ve been waiting for or the pride that swells in their heart seeing their child perform in the kindergarten play as the third hippopotamus or score that first goal in a football or soccer game.
But there are other kinds of empathy we seek to avoid, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously. Empathy for things we have deemed “evil” or “wrong” or “bad” is often not something we are consciously willing to allow ourselves to feel. We seem to think that if we can empathize with a murderer or a rapist or an abuser or a thief that part of us becomes a murderer, rapist, abuser or thief. This is not a comfortable feeling for us: we want to think of ourselves as “better” than that, as more spiritually aware, as more “saintly” or more “pure” or simply as a decent human being. We don’t want to admit that we are the same as, that we are One with, those whose faces are plastered on the evening news or are put into jail or even executed for their actions.
Throughout the Conversations with God material, God says that man, in relationship to God, is just as a drop of ocean water is to the ocean: the drop of water is the same as the ocean, differing only in degree. And the same is true of empathy: we have all felt the same feelings that motivate murderers, rapists, abusers and thieves: we just have not felt them to the same degree, therefore the resulting behaviors are different. I realize there are other factors governing behavior, including beliefs, past experiences (whether remembered or not), level of maturity (emotional and spiritual), etc. This is not an attempt to make a direct and exclusive cause and effect connection between feelings and actions. It’s an attempt to demonstrate that we are all more alike than most of us want to admit.
Have you ever gotten so frustrated with your child that you said something like “You are so stupid sometimes!” or “Stop being a spoiled brat!” or reached out and slapped their hand or their backside? Then you’ve done and felt, in a small way, the same thing a child abuser does and feels.
Have you ever gotten into an argument with your spouse/partner and started scream at them “I hate you! You are such as idiot!” or thrown something across the room, not even in their direction or simply not spoken to them for days at a time because you were so angry? You’ve behaved, to a lesser degree, just like an abusive partner in a domestic violence situation.
Have you ever been driving down the street and flipped off a driver who cut you off or laid on your horn at someone who didn’t go as soon as the light was green or got as close to someone’s back bumper as you could without hitting them because they did something to anger you? You’ve acted, in a small way, like someone with road rage.
Have you ever found a $10 bill lying on the ground in the grocery store and just picked it up and put it in your pocket? Or, knowing you were out of bandaids at home, and you’re sitting in an exam room waiting to be seen by a doctor, you open a cabinet and pocket a dozen bandaids? Or you’re walking though a grocery store and you’re so hungry your stomach is growling so you pop a few grapes in your mouth or a piece of candy from the bulk foods bins? Have you ever called in sick when you weren’t and gotten paid for it? Ever called a friend to punch you in on time cause you were running late or, if you still fill in time sheets, ever pad your time sheet with 15 minutes here and there? Have you ever surfed the internet while at work even though your company policy doesn’t allow it? You have, in a small way, acted just like a thief.
Have you ever bought a mouse trap, knowing it was going to kill the mouse it caught? Or have you ever killed a whole lot of mosquitoes or house flies or spiders that were infesting your house? Have you ever struck someone in anger or frustration or even pain? Have you ever driven home when you had had too much to drink? Then you have, in a small way, behaved just like a murderer.
Have you ever intentionally scared someone you knew hated being scared just to laugh at their reaction? Have you ever held someone down and tickled them even if they were yelling, “No! Please stop!” Have you ever given your partner the silent treatment because they didn’t want to be physically intimate and you did? Then you have, in a small way, behaved just like a rapist.
Have you ever forgotten, even once, to provide food or water to a pet? Have you ever forgotten, even once, to pick up your child from a friend’s house or from an after school activity? Have you ever, even once, had to backtrack because you forgot to drop your child off at the sitter or at daycare on your way to work? Then you have behaved, in a small way, like child or animal abusers.
When you’re watching shows like the “American Idol” audition episodes where they make fun of some of the contestants for their abilities or the way they dress or their behaviors, do you laugh and join in from home? Have you ever made fun of someone because of their weight or what they look like? Do you use the word “gay” to mean the same thing as “stupid” or “ridiculous”? Do you ever call someone a “retard” or a “bitch” or any other derogatory term in anger? Then you have behaved, in a small way, just like a bully.
But, I can hear you saying, those are not the same thing as being a murderer or a rapist or an abuser or a thief or a bully!
And you are correct! It’s not the same…anymore than a drop ocean water is the same thing as the ocean….