One of the things our nation is sorely lacking is empathy. Empathy is what helps us understand one another. It’s what motivates us to be there for one another. It creates community and unity. It allows us to move outside ourselves and to move forward. However, so many are stunted when it comes to empathy.
Empathy doesn’t come naturally to everyone, nor is it something that is always taught in the home. But, it can be learned at any age.
Empathy is extremely important in developing strong relationships in a professional setting as well as in your personal life. It also plays an important role in supporting family members who are or were incarcerated.
Incarceration often has a negative connotation. Judgments and labels are made about people who are or were in prison. Many assume the worst about people when their background includes imprisonment. However, what people often forget is their own mistakes.
One of the reasons people lack empathy is their inability to remember that they have also failed previously. They forget that they too have misstepped in the past and therefore hold people to high expectations. The other thing they may do is compare their mistakes, thinking their lapses in judgment aren’t as bad as another person’s. That really isn’t the point, the point is that we’re all human. We all slip up and all need support to help us move forward. We need second chances to allow us to live differently.
When we deny empathy to someone who is incarcerated or to someone who was recently released, we hurt their potential. We can also cause lasting damage to the relationship. Instead, by providing empathy, we can help them find their second chance. We can be a light of hope as they work to make new choices and live a different life.
If you’re struggling to find empathy, work on understanding where the person is coming from. Start by talking to the person and being open and honest in a loving way. Find out more about them and don’t be afraid to ask questions to help you see through their eyes.
Don’t dwell on your past, but don’t be afraid to shine a light on your own failures as well. It can help remind you that we all make mistakes.
Many of us need to be reminded that we have all slipped up at one time or another. We also need to believe in second chances and push hard to understand others. Everyone has a story. No matter what has happened so far in the story, help them create a better middle/ending by committing to being more empathetic and being a shining ray of hope.
[Monalisa Johnson is a licensed and ordained minister of the gospel and a certified life coach as well as a mother and entrepreneur. In no way is anything that she writes, speaks or shares considered medical advice or clinical therapy. Consider all that you receive to be life coaching and guidance.]