When was the last time you actually paused for a moment and tried to understand someone? Truly understand… I do not mean in the sense of cause and effect; they did [that] for [these reasons]. I mean it in the sense that a person’s actions are a reflection of a cumulative causality based off of their life experiences, their upbringing, their relationships, and what they are exposed to.
Going about our daily lives, the people that we come across are living in their own. The disheveled mother blocking the aisle, the inattentive cashier at the grocery store, the aggressive driver that cut you off in traffic… How often have you paused to think of what is possessing them to act in that way? What drives their story?
“No human being, when you understand his desires, is worthless. No one’s life is nothing. Even the most evil of men and women, if you understand their hearts, had some generous act that redeems them, at least a little, from their sins.” – Orson Scott Card, Speaker for the Dead
The disheveled mother is fraught with worry on how she is going to take care of everything at home while the husband flushes his paycheck down with alcohol? The inattentive cashier, pondering how he is going to make ends meet this week because he just had to buy a new set of tires in order to make it to work that day? The driver, on his way to the hospital to see a family member for the last time as they lay on their deathbed. We never really know unless we ask. But when do we ask anymore?
To truly understand someone does not excuse them of responsibility for their actions. Understanding is not the right term… Empathy. To feel empathy for their actions… We focus so much on cause and effect relationships that we never attempt to understand the deeper meaning of their actions. To feel empathy for another.
When we fail to understand the motive, we no longer feel empathy towards others.