“If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.” –Mother Teresa

“If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.” –Mother Teresa

 

Empathy is something we hear a lot about in pop culture. People often share quizzes or quotes about being an empathy. As much as the word is thrown around in today’s society, I wish it was practiced more.

Empathy is often confused with sympathy but those two emotions are very different. Sympathy is understanding that a person is experiencing a particular emotion. Empathy is feeling that particular emotion alongside the person.

What I pull from Mother Teresa’s words are powerful. We may understand that a particular group of people have a plight and we may recognize they are vulnerable and marginalized but do we truly empathize with them?

Because a group of people are experiencing a shared plight do we somehow believe this diminishes their struggles? Often we view people we disagree with as a group of nameless and faceless people. We see immigrants, African Americans, LBGTQ people, and other marginalized people of society. Because we look at the “mass” we fail to recognize the dignity and inherent worth of the individual person that makes up the “masses”.

Each person has an experience that is different from your own. That experience is as valid as yours. We lose that when we see people as nameless and faceless enemy.

I think the best example of empathy was stated by Jesus Christ. He advised “love one another as yourself”. This means we recognize that the stranger in the mass has a personhood that is separate from my own. I think Jesus was also highlighting that in many ways we can be harder on other people than we are on ourselves.

We understand our intentions. We know where our heart was. Yet we always question the motives of others. We are quick to assume another’s wrong doings and not give the benefit of the doubt. If we loved others as we loved ourselves, we wouldn’t rush t judgment about other people’s motives but give them time to make them known.

By only seeing people as part of a “mass” we maintain that shroud around them, perpetuating a two dimensional understanding of them. We have to recognize that people of all walks want what we all want: our basic physical and psychological needs to be met. When we prevent that we are denying an individual’s personhood. In a fair and free society we validate everyone’s experience while not denying a person’s existence.

We should always keep in mind that behind every issue, political or other, is the “one” that makes up the “mass”. That one is a person who has thoughts, feelings, and perspective on the world.

Empathy is one of those buzz words that is often thrown around in pop culture and it seems very little understand the complexity of the emotion or what it truly means to empathize with another person. Its understanding that we can disagree while recognizing the complexity of the person we disagree with. It’s a way for us to maintain our humanity. It’s something to consider the next time you are faced with the “mass”; consider the “one”.

“If indeed you must be candid, be candid beautifully.” -Kahlil Gibran

We have all had someone say to us “I’m just being honest” or “I’m speaking my mind”, and my favorite “I’m just telling the truth” and its usually followed up with a negative opinion. 

There are some folks that practice the art of candidness very badly. They seem to do it often and never are better for it. This person often gives their thoughts on the subject and they are almost always negative and never constructive.

I find that those folks who pride themselves in being a “truth teller” are usually the ones that are just being plain mean. They feel if they can thinly veil their comments in what they call “candid honesty” then their words are justified. 

They also believe that if you are offended by what they have to say then you are sensitive. The issue in the situation solely rest with you. It can’t possibly be the insensitive comments they have just shared with you. 

These folks do not believe in “If you have nothing nice to say then say nothing at all” notion. They will be heard regardless of what this candid thought will do to others. 

Admittedly, not all candid thoughts are bad. Those that are helpful, constructive, and productive should be shared. Those that benefit a person should be said. 

Here a few stipulations that can help you decide if your candid thought is helpful or hurtful:

1) Figure out why you are making this candid remark. Am I saying this with negative intent? 

2) Will this do more harm than good? Is this for the other person’s benefit? Can this advise actually help?

3) Am I sharing this critical thought just so I can be heard? If so do I really need to say it?

Overall, the thought that you have may be valid and it could be helpful to a person but you should find a tactful way to say it. Tactfulness is a very important skill to have. There will always be a right way to say something and a right time to say something. Figuring out that combination is very difficult. However, if you learn it you will find that your personal relationships will flourish. 

Proper candidness can get your point across without offending someone. There is nothing wrong with being candid with another person. Being truthful is something we should all desire. We should all want to us our words wisely. 

God affirms in James 3:6 “ The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”

This highlights how seriously our words can affect one another. They can greatly affect people while providing the speaker with negative consequences as well.

We should look to use our words cautiously and purposefully. We should desire for people to be positively affected by our words. Words do matter. Our words are some of the most beautifully dynamic and yet destructive things we use. Words teach. Words persuade. Words convey love. Words unite people. 

This in itself is humbling.