144 A Call to Empathy

empathy

Empathy

noun

  1. the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

I studied theater for 4 years in college, and it was a crash course in empathy. School taught me how to look at the behavior of a character in written form, and bring it to life with all the complexities that humans carry around with them.

One of the major lessons in creating a character is: you cannot judge the character’s behavior or choices as you are preparing a role. If you judge a character as you create it, your performance is biased and one-dimensional. For example, if you are playing a character that you would consider a ditzy woman, and you keep saying, “she is just so stupid”, you have failed your job as an actor as you haven’t answered why she is the way she is.

This exercise has proven a great lesson to apply to my life in general. When someone is on my nerves or doing something I find unacceptable, I try to step outside of my irritation and understand why it’s happening. Why they feel the way they feel. In return, it makes the way I respond to the situation more positive for myself and that person. I am not always successful at it, but I do try.

I think I need more of this in my life, and we need more of it as a society in general. Do I think we should all hold hands and sing Kumbaya? No. But a little more understanding, and a little less demonizing would be helpful.

Everyone is going through their own thing. That doesn’t mean you should put up with abuse or negativity from people, but it helps to realize people generally don’t make rash decisions about how they live their lives. A person’s decisions are a culmination of their life’s experiences, and not everyone is given the same tools to get to the finish line. We should never forget that.

 

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