• A is for Agape

The Art of Sympathy

The hardest thing to do is stand by and watch someone else’s pain. Sure, our own pain is difficult enough. We feel it inside us after all. But when it’s our own we know what to do to ease it or make it go away completely. When it is someone else, we watch helplessly…perplexed by their reactions. We know what would solve the problem, of course. But when we try to share our wisdom we are inevitably rebuffed.

So what do we do when someone is suffering? Public opinion, and probably a bunch of research out there as well, tells us that we should do nothing. What? Stand by idly as they work on their inner turmoil, struggle with their demons, and generally suffer and ache. Apparently, the answer to that is still, YES!

Okay, why does this make sense and why am I now the one suffering because of this? Well, the answer is in the question. They are working, struggling, and suffering through it…like we all have done at one time or another. When we are in our own dark place what has ever resolved our own issues. Probably there was a lot of mulling and stewing and then BAM, the answer came to us. And all was well with the world. Okay, so sometimes it’s less BAM and more like a WHAP right on the side of the head. But the point is it came from within ourselves.

In the meantime, we are not feeling better about the other person’s pain. And again, we have answered our own question. When someone else feels bad it makes us feel helpless and insecure. That makes us uncomfortable so we want everything resolved quickly. It is no longer about them, it is about us.

Let me take my own advice. I will stop biting my nails hoping for everything to get better so I can feel better. Instead I will sit by their side and offer them all I really have…myself.

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