Sympathy: "feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else's misfortune."
Empathy: "the ability to understand and share the feelings of another."
Disabled: "having a physical or mental condition that limits movements, senses, or activities."
The other day I heard someone had become "disabled." My first judgment was sympathy. My entire life I always felt sorry for anyone who I believed to be disabled. After all, I believed life was tough enough in perfect health. I could not imagine how difficult life would be for someone who had special needs.
As I have been challenging a lot of my biases recently, I thought about my judgment of sympathy for the person I heard was disabled. Was I simply applying the laws of my universe to someone else's universe? How do I know if someone who society or I deem disabled is really disabled? Perhaps they are thrilled with their life. Maybe, they don't view themselves as disabled in any way at all.
On a personal note, I have had my share of issues with addiction and depression. But nobody ever referred to me as "disabled." Why not?
This is where "empathy" comes in to the picture. If I know someone who I judge to be disabled, what would happen if I asked them how they feel? Maybe they would say that my initial judgments were right, but maybe they would say that they have never felt more content and at peace. It is possible I walk away from that conversation with a completely different view then I had going into it. I could begin to understand how they feel, as opposed to simply pitying them and moving on with my day.
This is "Ubiquitous Relativity." The philosophy and eponymous book are founded on a desire to connect to others on a deeper more meaningful level. Each of the 7.5 Billion people on the planet live in their own universe. We know next to nothing about anyone else's universe. Therefore, we need to pause on judgment and ask each other questions to strengthen the bonds between us.
My goal is to pause on 1 judgment a day. That is a start.