The Gift of Struggle: Empathy / The Gift of Empathy: Connection

EmpathyThe RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) is a charity that takes talks, often TED talks,  finds their “meaty” portions, and creates animated shorts out of them.

The most recent one I came across is “The Power of Empathy”

Video here:

That video is based on Brene Brown’s talk, “The Power of Vulnerability.”

Almost four years ago, shortly after she first delivered it, I watched Brene Brown’s TED talk. Her words captivated me, but this animation, less than three minutes long, resonated with me on an even deeper level.

I think it helps that the animated short focuses on just one idea, so that one can more fully grasp its meaning.

But what was different now compared with four years ago? When I saw this short today, the first thing that came to mind was a recent dinner I had with some fellow moms. We were gathering because one of the women is in the midst of a breast cancer battle and she wanted a night out. She was diagnosed at Stage 3 and has undergone chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and now is in her final days of radiation treatments.empathy 2

Before heading to the restaurant, I prayed that I be available to her, and play whatever role she needed or wanted: a distraction, a comic, a listener—whatever.

After dinner, as we slowly walked to our cars, away from the buzz of the other women perhaps not comfortable “going there,” I asked questions and I listened.

And I summed it up, “So you’re angry.”

Quietly, she responded, “Yes I am.”

I took that in, nodded, and told her, “I get that.”

I “only” had had Stage 1 breast cancer. But I allowed myself to try to feel what she was feeling. It was painful, it was uncomfortable, it was multilayered.

And, just like the end of this animated short, she initiated the embrace, the hug, the connection.

We all have the ability to be empathetic. But I know for me, over the years I had begun to gradually shut off that part of me. I did so, honestly, because feeling so deeply scared me. But as a result, I became increasingly harsh, judgmental, and insensitive.

Going through my own health issues has softened my heart. Not that I’m celebrating, “Yippee! I had cancer!” Because of that process, though, I am a fuller human being, living life authentically, with a richness that had been missing for a while.

In a word: Connection. I have connection to who I really am, connection to my God, and connection to those around me.empathy3

1 comment for “The Gift of Struggle: Empathy / The Gift of Empathy: Connection

  1. rocket
    April 17, 2014 at 10:13 am

    It’s a shame it takes drastic situations to make one appreciate what is available in life each and every day. Being happy should be easy, contentedness should be a default feeling. Alas, they are not.

    Empathy is hard. Change is hard. I struggle with the same things you do it seems, and at the risk of putting words into your mouth, in this world where disillusionment is everywhere it’s hard to have empathy because it makes one vulnerable.

    You are a good person for taking your role seriously for this lady’s night out. The fact you thought ahead and were self aware enough to be thinking of her needs as opposed to your own speaks volumes. That is becoming more and more rare this day and age.

    Keep trying to find your chi Bridgett, and know there’s others out there who are on the quest to be better people!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *