The Arrogance of Sympathy

We are trying and struggling to find out how each other are doing. Asking “How are you?” is a loaded question today.

First we know everyone is dealing with the deadly contagions of COVID and Systemic Racism–in addition to life’s amazing challenges. In our minds we are kind and caring. But our words, our questions, our auto-helpfulness say something else. We leap to assumptions. We judge so fast. We craft something to say before we feel anything. We have no idea what others are feeling and experiencing. 

Philo said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” A battle you cannot fully understand.

True leadership is being humble enough to accept the mystery of not knowing another.

The Japanese have a beautiful phrase to express sympathy:  sabishi so  Loosely translated means–“there is loneliness, for we have all lost something…”

Sympathy can be arrogant and even offensive. Empathy is being fully present and WITH them. It is not about you and it is not a time to fix things. And by the way, time does not heal! Time may provide perspective, gratitude, and humility. And compassion is the mutuality of the suffering.

So slow down, listen non-judgmentally. Take a breath and be present. And see and feel what others say. And we will close the gap of our shared humanity. 

Ask: How are you today? And then silently listen with your heart. 

Thanks for reading. John

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