All these words can be found as part of the definition of humanity.Humanity, empathy, vulnerability seem to be qualities that are missing, or disappearing altogether, in today’s society. But why?
Allegiant passengers clapped as a dying father and his son were escorted off a plane after the son suffered an allergy attack; happy apparently that they would no longer be delayed. Images are omnipresent of people killing other people, at homes, at schools, and in the workplace, no longer just in war. Rage is increasing all around us -road rage, standing in line rage, rage at the teachers, rage at the parents, rage at the boss, rage at the colleagues….we are at war.
The warrior or soldier is trained to be in stressful situations by blocking, through training, some of the feelings that make them vulnerable. Soldiers are still human and have these feelings, but they are trained to put their training first and these feelings second. They cannot be an effective soldier in a dangerous place if they are debating the good and evil of things, places, and people while shots are being fired over their head. In those combat situations they are in high stress mode and trained to do what they are directed for the good of the team and the country they serve.
Unfortunately, people in this era of media showing one catastrophic event after another are, in a sense, in a state of constant combat, at war in every day situations. People are feeling as if everyone is the potential enemy.
We need to remember to empathize, to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes.Several years ago we had a death in our family and it involved a motorcycle. I know for months I had a really hard time driving, and would panic if a motorcycle was anywhere near me. I was that slow driver, probably annoying everyone around me. All I could think is that “I am sorry. I know I am doing this but if you only knew what we just went through….” Now that time has healed some of that pain, and the fear has subsided, I still try to put myself in the other person’s shoes when a car is going too slow in front of me. I think are they on their way to the hospital, did they just have a really bad day and my decision to honk and tailgate them could make it worse. I try to think this way. I am not always successful, but I try.
We can transpose this situation to any number of day to day situations: the grocery store, the gas station, the doctor’s office, school, work. Too often we just think of ourselves, our family, our immediate need. Anyone beyond that is the outside, in some cases the enemy. We do not put on the other person’s shoes, see the situation from his/her perspective, and suddenly the mundane annoyance turns into a battle. Our stress elevates, we say or do things that we later see as being “over the top.” Like the Allegiant passengers who now know what idiots they were because media has “put them in Giovanni’s shoes” by letting them know what he was going through.
If life is going to be enjoyable, we need to make connections and feel fulfilled. In order to do that we must break down the barriers, pull back from the combat zone and put yourself in your neighbors’ shoes. You have to be vulnerable. Next time you feel yourself getting irritated at the old lady in front of you at the grocery store, the young clerk at the DMV, or the assistant at work think about what they may be going through before you act or speak. Once you start thinking of all the possible scenarios for the other person’s actions you begin to soften, your patience returns, your warrior side breaks down, and you become a little more human.