As humans, we naturally fear what we do not know, whether it be about another culture or a close friend. We have the choice to either face our fear by emerging ourselves into unfamiliar territories, or to give way to weakness and cower from the possibility of something that may lie out of our control. But our Father is a father of love. God does not speak to us through fear. Therefore, we need not be intimidated by the vast unknown.
It is too easy for us to come to a conclusion about another person. We see them do something, anything, and instantly, we judge them subconsciously, engraving into our minds the type of person they must be. Then we treat them accordingly. Jesus treated all people fairly, with respect and human dignity. He was able to do this because he was able to put himself in that other person’s spot. Jesus showed empathy. He understood why people made the decisions they did and was able to see others for the person they truly were. He calls us to do the same.
When we see politicians or criminals on television, we instantly judge them. But we need to look at why they might be doing what they are doing. We need to have empathy. We need to show that we have empathy. We need to show it through our actions.
One does not have to be a psychologist to understand others. It takes is an open mind and imagination. We must be able to take a few moments each day to think of another person and try to feel what they are feeling. This allows us to more easily relate to that person and attain a much better view on this world.
Whenever I need to form a strong opinion on something, I always try to go about it in the same manner. I think of three stereotypical people that may favor a certain decision and I use my imagination to run through their average day. Then I think of three other people who have opposing views and I then put myself in their shoes. Looking at something from as many views as possible helps me to understand the problem better and form a firm opinion. We often use the word “stereotype” with a negative connotation, but I think stereotypes are also a blessing. Without them, we could not have any empathy. When I use this exercise, I know my ideal person must be as realistic and reasonable as possible. Even if the person whose eyes I am looking through fits into a negative stereotype, their opinion is just as valued to me in my overall decision.
Immigration is one way I try to put myself in someone else’s shoes. I put myself in the spot of someone coming to a new land, terrified of what may lie ahead, but knowing that it is all for the better. I remember fond things about my home and recall my friends that I saw only days ago. I think of the new life and reputation that I am able to create, only to find that in many places I am unwelcomed and not wanted. Every time I do this, my eyes are opened just a little bit more to the pain, suffering and anxiety of others. But I also see the beauty that others see, the most joyous moments of their lives all at once.
So often we overlook the beauty of this world that we have been given. It is in moments such as this where we cease to live, and only exist. It is moments such as this where God is calling us back to him, he is calling us to be aware. That time is now. It is time we open our eyes to recognize the human dignity of all people. We can only do that through the change of heart that comes from looking at the world through the eyes of others.
Today, our world is full of injustice, it is full of people hungry for nothing but power. We must be able to relate to those people so that we may love them. We have to show empathy if we have any desire for peace. Empathy allows us gain a new, more educated and balanced view in our life and those of others. It leads to understanding, peace and love.
Empathy breeds justice. So I challenge you, next time you read a book, watch a movie or listen to the news, put yourself in that person’s spot and practice having empathy. Recreate in your mind the experience. Only then, can we start to fathom the actions and feelings of our brothers and sisters. Only then can we answer our Father’s call.
Sam Ray is a rising senior at Catholic High School in Little Rock. He is a member of Christ the King Church in Little Rock.
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