To all my readers:
May each and every one of your hearts be filled to overflowing first with the great love of and for yourself as God being and fulfilling Himself in you and then may you in the coming days, weeks and months know the greatest joy by spreading His love out into your worlds – no matter what your circumstances, conditions and capacity. Every ounce counts!
Be en-rich-ed and enveloped in Him now and through 2017
Blessings for a wondrous New Year of epic proportions.
From my heart to yours
Much can be said about empathy. And that is only because it continues largely to be lacking in human consciousness.
It is a fact of life we are all born into varying cultures, religions, customs, races and genders. And then we have parents with their own inherited familial conditionings, in addition to our societal and environmental conditionings. All of which mold our attitudes, our values, approaches and reactions to the world and people.
There is no ‘norm’ therefore, though certain cultures would like to believe they set the trend for the world and have even attempted to impose their ‘norm’ on the rest of the world.
Yet, it remains there is only perspective. The factors above would certainly play a part in how you perceive your world and more importantly, yourself.
Having empathy is the opposite of self-centredness or selfishness; it is the spirit of generosity and kindness in action. Yet, so few in your world are able to practice it or exist in such a state due to the more overpowering need to cling to FEAR (false evidence appearing real). Fear clings to that with which it is familiar, such as one’s culture, religion, lifestyle values in order to define what is right and wrong.
Empathy is the ability to feel and understand another’s feelings and thus, their viewpoint. Empathy can be said to be a measurement of emotional intelligence and spiritual development.
However, the FEAR which motivates selfishness or self-centredness has grown to be a tool that is supremely manipulated for purposes of control amongst masses of people in the world. Whether that be in the developed countries with their accent on the intellect and education or those struggling with basic survival issues on a daily basis in the less-developed parts of the world.
Having said that, there is also an innate sense of brotherhood, of family, of Ubuntu (meaning ‘what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine’ in South Africa) across Africa and in parts of the Third world.
That innate sense that is a natural aspect of African consciousness somehow has never quite been able to be stamped out through mind control. It is ever present and encourages a culture of sharing between the haves and have-nots.
But that part of a cultural expression or value encouraging the sharing of material things does not necessarily mean there is the inner feeling of greater empathy within the broader culture practise, either.
Like just because the the Eurocentric world say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ as their sign of approved ways of public behavior, it doesn’t mean that all who express these terms really mean or feel them.
Yet, regardless of culture and external conditioning, empathy is a component of soul that can never be destroyed, only temporarily camouflaged by self-centredness.
Empathy has never been and could never be an intellectual exercise; it is something you feel for others – or conversely, do not feel for others – through the heart. It is a feeling and feelings cannot be contrived. Empathy also happens to be a natural part of life in the animal kingdoms who know no separation from their source. But due to separation from our inner source, us humans have more difficulty in feeling and expressing this.
If one’s social and cultural conditioning produces what is known as a value system within us, the little self’s mandate is to defend and protect this value system to the hilt. Anything else is perceived as threatening to the little self.
Ultimately, empathy is what the soul naturally embodied is: a being who considers experiences and feelings of others as valid as his/her own.
This is how the world can be brought into greater balance as per relationships between all sorts of seemingly-different people on earth. Supposed differences between each other which have separated us is nothing more than an illusion. Just another set up in the world to split humanity apart from each other by attempting to keep us split apart from ourSelves.
For what is selfishness born of fear but a drawing in of the shell of defence around oneself against any perceived external danger. The 'dangers' therefore of empathy could
trigger mental, moral and emotional challenges within. Places that most would rather avoid as this inevitably challenges core be-lie-fs in the process and can produce deep discomfort.
More importantly, there’s a response-ability that comes with that.
Which is to acknowledge and state ownership of such be-lie-fs, some of which have caused separation from others, resulting in prejudices and judgements of all kinds, including xenophobia.
When we refuse to work toward being empathetic with others, we remain shackled within. And our unwillingness means we struggle to acknowledge or appreciate others on the deeper levels, because of it.
Being in empathy is an expansive way of communication and is all-inclusive of all others.
It still totally amazes me how open people will be in sharing of themselves when given the opportunity to feel accepted and emotionally-supported by others.
Not apologistically from guilt, not in any martyr-like fashion or with a contrived openness, but in a sincere reaching out without any type of judgement of another or his/her experiences and responses.
Ironically, though you may never identify with most peoples’ experiences you are in empathy with, you WILL be able to identify with the feelings they have about their experiences. And THIS is what acts as the bridge and allows for empathy to flow between two or more.
CULTIVATING EMPATHY – A PERSONAL TALE
This is one of the experiences I had a couple of weeks ago which impulse me to want to explore Empathy again. Empathy is not to by confused with sympathy [feelings of pity/sorrow for another’s misfortune].
I became haunted – and still am – by a seemingly-innocuous comment in passing from a friend who is Coloured (of mixed race). When she expressed an intelligent comment to someone in a store recently she said the facial response was a: ‘You shouldn’t know that or be expressing it. You’re a Coloured’. The guy she commented to happened to be one of our White minority.
This is a typical response [either silently or vocally] to Coloured or Black people who outwardly express their creativity, intelligence or who try to get ahead in a still very White-controlled economy and society.
It got me going off on a mental tangent about the additional pressures of living with an externally-imposed subtle psycho-social system where the majority are forced at every turn to feel inferior to white people and thus, subjugated. It is and has been the driving force of racism here for centuries.
Though her experience hasn’t been my experience, I could identify with my friend’s pain – and understand something of her resentment as this had been her experience for decades.
I, on the other hand, grew up feeling like I was permanently under attack and felt forced to defend myself continuously - in my own home. I had a mother who was addicted to being negative about others and criticizing everything and anything [and still is] and I was her primary target.
My teen years were spent finding ways to escape the house and take refuge in friends and their warm, accepting and loving mothers.
As a result, what I subsequently created as my ‘script’ in the world was this. I daily entered my world emotionally ‘armed’ and charged up in defensive, ready to protect myself from all manner of (often imagined, sometimes not) attacks by people. Repeating the pattern of victimhood from my growing up years.
In my 20’s and early 30’s and before I began examining this, my taking on of my mother’s conditioning saw me privately doing all the same she’d done: I was the critic, judgemental and unbudgeable in my be-lie-fs. About a lot. Being intellectually and emotionally rigid was part of that defense.
My point is I was the opposite of what it means to feel and then be, empathetic, as described in the piece above. Although I’d always been considered generous by friends and relationships, I was emotionally self-centred as part of that defensiveness and therefore, wasn’t able to be too open with others who were different from me. In short, not able to feel them with them and be empathetic! That was extending myself too much out of my comfort zone at that stage.
It took my long-term travels to many Third world countries and much self work to help me slowly disengage from those self perceptions. After my return I began to witness my interactions with others. It was something that I had to do; it was impulsed from within and only many years later did I realize why.
Being naturally empathetic is emotional intelligence in action. Being empathetic and prioritizing service to others in one’s life are door openers to becoming telepathic.
Being empathetic is something I continue to cultivate. It’s a refining process and requires conscious attention. And I really welcome opportunities where someone makes a comment or an observation where others point out my judgements.
Where we are still in judgement of others/our circumstances and anything else ‘out there’ is where we are still in judgement ‘in here’, in ourselves. More self acceptance and self love is the solution – and where more genuine empathy unfolds naturally.
This piece and my friend's experience and hurt triggered my revisiting Empathy:
I love this coherent voice in the increasingly-inner pressurised racist feeling that is bubbling far more to the surface than ever before here.
Empathy is an action. Racism is also an action. They are opposite actions and are also both reactions.
Both have to be role modelled and can't be textbook taught. Practice makes perfect. Looking back, one can't always identify someone who taught empathy or racism, both are behaviours ingrained through conditioning.
I made these distinctions while watching the unfolding situation with Vicki Momberg, who was filmed in having a vitriolic racial rant towards black police officers and being totally disinterested in resolving her own desperate situation as a victim of a smash-and-grab.
Sure enough, other countries have racists. In South Africa we are distinct because we had laws and apartheid architects who are still winning because they practised what they preached and legislated.
We live in the cesspit of racism, like an empty kitchen sink with grimy, fatty residue sticking to the aluminium sides and clinging to the plug holes. It looks like, smells like and sticks the same. It leaves one feeling ill. Nobody wants to put their fingers in there to scoop up the leftover hangers-on. Filling up with freshwater and soap suds will not get everything clean and shiny. It is going to take a bit of elbow grease, rolled up sleeves and something abrasive to scrape away the offensive smell and feel. Very, very inconvenient when you thought you had done a great job cleaning up, the dishes and South Africa.
One way to eradicate racism is to become anti-racist. In the mythical world of a non-racist we don't have to clean the sink. We just "move along" like it never happened, or if it did, it's behind us now.
This method is not working out South Africa. Anti-racism keeps us mindful of our thoughts, remarks and insinuations. A victory is when you can put your thoughts in the right bubble. Feeling powerless as we stamp out the still-hot ashes of apartheid with tired bare feet is not an excuse for racism. This is an opportunity to practice unlearning racism, looking to see the people around who are winning at being anti-racist. Those many children who treat their friends as equals, without pretending to be colour blind.
Our Constitutional Court has not been this busy in decades. Many ordinary people now know better how the court operates than an ordinary magistrates court, a regional court or the Supreme Court. There is good, bad and surprise in that truth. Some people in power disregard rules and regulations, some above the law. It is a scary situation. The lack of leadership, custodianship, accountability and respect for work, people and their things shows up on the streets, news and lives of too many.
The amount of hardworking police officers being murdered in this period of lawlessness is shameful. They are supposed to be revered, to protect us, yet they need divine intervention to make it home to their families.
Being robbed is a reality we are sure that we or someone in our circle will experience, escape or be scarred by. In our current blame game, many have lost sight of the fact that black South Africans make up the majority of our population. We will less frequently be robbed by a white thief. It is probable that when you call a police station or call centre you would reach a constable, operator or consultant whose first language is not English or Afrikaans. Yes, if you are reporting a crime with urgency, even a Frenchmen battling to understand you would be an annoyance. This is a separate issue to the person's blackness. Black people answering phones, meeting multicultural peers in boardrooms, business class lounges and aeroplane seats is how it should be naturally. Sadly, it's not.
Given these realities, the absence of many more black people ranting and raging about being done in and incompetence is a screaming silence.
It has become usual that people who are not black conflate crime with blackness instead of with criminals. As people associate white people with privilege and entitlement.
In an empathetic world we would look at right and wrong. We would stop pretending that everything is hunky dory if it's not. We don't speak up "in case people think we're racist". If you make racist remarks, you are racist. If you object to incompetence or bad service, this is your right. If you identify behaviour for what it is, such as theft, or English is not your first language, then you define a different result.
Momberg was frightened, angry, traumatised and quite hysterical. I imagine I would feel like that if I had been robbed while sitting in my locked car. I felt for her as the victim and I felt annoyed with the robbers. Each robbery represents a could-have-been-me-threat. However, when she digressed into a racist rant, it flushed into my gut like a firehose. It burnt. Her repeated use of the k-word ignited in me a millisecond of sympathy that she doesn't know another way and immediately a question, "Who's problem is it that she is racist?". "Shame, but"…is not empathy, it is an excuse. I would bet that until this incident nobody had raised with her that she is racist.
I hope whatever happens is restorative and she learns that robbers rob, not all black people rob. Millions of us were raised in the Republic of Apartheid South Africa. Some of our parents got it right to educate us in empathy through their actions, even though they didn't have a vote or a voice here. We had empathy guides and role models. They did the right stuff and we get to make healthy choices because of that.
As South Africans we will be verbally or mentally racist for a long time. One does not drain a 300-year-old swamp in 22 years. It's the way our machinery works. One way we are going to change this is to be aware of anti-racism. Spitting out racism like Momberg requires no thought, even though it is a choice and she is not free of the consequences. People freed us, including her, and if she chooses to sit in that open cage holding that banana, then change is not coming her way.
Listening to her also took me back to my exposure to racism in our home. I grew up in Athlone on the Cape Flats but for the past 18 years I have lived in a leafy suburb. One day years ago, a destitute, sober, young (but old looking) blonde mum rang our doorbell. I answered the intercom while watching her on the camera. "Hello...?" I said. She proceeded with her line. Her husband had abandoned them, she was looking for an odd job, and she didn't drink or do drugs. She was just desperate to provide for her kids. As she continued I thought I would give her a few bags of my children's clothing because it was light to carry. Instead of perishables or heavy cans I would give her money to buy groceries. I picked up the remote to open the gate and told her to meet me at our front door. "Wait!" she said, her unnaturally wrinkled poker face changed to irritation as she spat, "Jy klink sous 'n kleurling! Ek wil nie met jou praat nie! Ek wil met die eienaar praat!" I will translate for those who don't speak Afrikaans, "You sound like a coloured! I do not want to speak to you! I want to speak to the lady of the house." Despite being destitute, she would not take a hand up from me. She was desperate, homeless, penniless and a parent of two children. Her judgement in that second failed because she was racist before she was needy. Her judgement about who should be living there, how she could accept help from a coloured, it was all there in full view and earshot of her two children. She chose racism and in that split moment I chose me. I dropped the intercom phone, I wept and was clear that I will never accept racism again. Never, never and never again.
Our friends still ask for the lady of the house and I roll my eyes and ask them to come in and iron and we have a giggle. Without a sense of humour and a zero tolerance of racism, things will stay the same and the passage of time will feel like change. Until this dough is kneaded and shaped, many more public outbursts and violent reactions are the real weather report.
Empathy or racism in context, it's one without the other. Choose empathy.
Lisa Joshua Sonn is a social activist. Follow her on Twitter: @annalisasonn
Another oldie but a goldie as the lyrics were strongly impulsing a couple of days ago [yes, that watery theme - again]:
Tuesday, December 27, 2016
To all my readers: