We’re experiencing a moment in history where there’s no greater time for empathy. When you step back to look at the past year, we’ve endured a lot of difficulty leaving many of us with lives that look different, and certainly all of us with a world that looks different too. I think we can all agree it’s been a long, hard year enduring a global pandemic, racial tension, political dysfunction, natural disasters, and so much more. I’ve personally witnessed an uptick in what seems like hate, negativity, and harshness online too. Have you?
It’s been so significantly noticeable in recent months, that it left me searching to understand whether others feel the same. The Pew Research Center in Washington D.C. thinks so. In fact, their study shows that “64% of Americans say social media negatively affects the way things are going in the country today”, and it cites misinformation, hate, and harassment as being the force behind these perceptions. Of coarse, this article in particular was in relation to the presidential election and political parties–which honestly just further exacerbates the fact that we’ve been quite wrapped up in polarizing views in recent months!
In this post, you’ll find that the missing link between the discord we feel today and where we wish to be instead, has a lot to do with empathy. You’ll also begin to believe that we CAN get where we want to be, by first-and-foremost, understanding how you can take control of your own sphere of influence.
So, let’s get started! There’s no greater time for empathy, and time’s a-ticking!
In the same article by the Pew Research Center, it’s cited that those who think social media has a positive effect on the country (25% of those polled), believe the value comes from staying informed and being aware. I can’t blame them!
While I believe social media is an incredible way to consume and share information, it’s the way in which it’s shared that determines whether it’s helpful or hurtful. Lately, I’ve been witnessing a lot of the latter with judgements, insults, and outright hate being thrown around online. And it’s not all our fault necessarily. We’re human, and we’ve been under incredible pressure, having to endure new stressors in our environment every. single. day. However, that doesn’t mean we get a total free hall pass either!
We have the ability to take control of our own mindset, perspectives, worldview, and ultimately, the influence we have in the relationships around us.
Well, it turns out those 25% of people in the research poll were on to something...
1) When we become evermore aware of the world around us, we begin to have empathy - because the more we know, the more we realize how much we don’t know about our world and its people. It opens up our world, literally!
2) When we get close to an issue, we see and understand it differently than we ever could before.
Try this with me! Think about a time you were forced to encounter something new in your life that you hadn’t ever spent a minute thinking about until that moment - maybe it’s a diagnosis, a death, financial trouble, or even a big move to a new place! Once we live it, we understand it.
3) Similarly, we don’t just have to live through things to understand them. We can understand life through deep learning, or through the perspective of another person too. This is where practicing cultivating empathy becomes a tool that literally can change the world!
When we understand, we respond differently to the people around us, to that harsh person online, or the homeless person we encounter on the side of the street. When we understand each other, we’re more inclined to help each other…we’re more inclined to love.
And more love (not less) is certainly what we need in difficult moments such as these! Right?
So, how can we begin practicing cultivating empathy in our own lives?
It begins first with the desire to cultivate more empathy. Just that fact alone means your mind is open and ready to receive whatever you encounter. It means your stance on issues is a little more malleable, because you realize there’s more you don’t understand.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a firm stance on issues important to you! It means that while you take a firm stance, you also continue to seek and uncover new perspectives about that issue and actively consider your stance as you learn. This can be hard to do when we’re really passionate, but if you’re anything like me, you’ve come to realize there really is usually more you don’t understand yet. 😉
2) Intentional Mindset Practice
Like most things that aren’t always completely natural, empathy is cultivated through practice. By bringing our attention and awareness back to an open mindset on a regular basis, we have the ability to cultivate more empathy in our own lives. As we practice, we begin to see the world around us in a new light! We also can start to see things differently in our own relationships too. You might find yourself offering your spouse more grace, asking better questions before judging a friend, or even digging deeper inside yourself too!
There’s really no better time for empathy!
In a season of difficulty and harshness online, empathy can help bridge the gap between where we are today and where we hope to be tomorrow. We have the ability to take control of our own mindset, perspectives, worldview, and ultimately, the influence we have in the relationships around us. With awareness, desire, and intentionally practicing cultivating empathy in our own lives, we’ll begin to see the world in a new light. And when we do, the world will become a more accepting and loving place!
Looking for more ways to cultivate empathy?
Grab my free 5-day empathy guide with journal prompts to practice cultivating more empathy in your life! In as little as 5 days, you’ll begin seeing the world in a different light, and uncover new insights about the relationships around you!
Seriously, I created this guide specifically with you in mind, and it includes questions that I ask myself when I’m working to see new perspectives as well!