I heard some great news about the state of humanity yesterday. :)
There I was, minding my own business, making manly poses in the gym mirror in between pull-up sets, when I overheard the news…
“Feminism” won word of the year from Webster’s dictionary in 2017!
That’s a big win for humanity because it shows more people are looking to understand and embrace equality. BUT, that actually wasn’t the news that excited me the most…
What reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally excited me was hearing that a runner-up for “word of the year” was… EMPATHY!!!
I nearly did a backflip through the ceiling onto the gym rooftop and into my imaginary helicopter!
I’m a fan of empathy the way 14 years old girls were a fan of N’SYNC back in 2000. Like, jumping up and down outside of the MTV studios with a big poster while twirling their hair. ?
Let me give you a quick 101 on why empathy is the shit. And why it almost winning “word of the year” (based on high search volume) is a massive win for all of humanity.
To understand why empathy is so dreamy, we need to start by looking at SHAME, and why shame is the most toxic emotion ever known to mankind.
For starters, do you know the difference between guilt and shame?
Guilt is the feeling of doing a bad behavior.
Shame is the feeling of being a bad person.
Guilt is “I did something wrong.”
Shame is “I am something wrong.”
SHAME is the experience of believing that you are broken. Flawed. Not enough. And unworthy of love and belonging. This feeling is *NEVER* helpful.
GUILT is the experience of feeling that you’ve DONE something wrong – something that doesn’t live up to your values. This can be very helpful for course correcting.
What really dropped my jaw was when I learned that shame is often at the root of suicide, depression, addiction, eating disorders, bullying, and violence.
Shame is pretty much humanity’s kryptonite.
It’s kinda like each of us is born as a little baby superhero with unlimited potential – destined for greatness and to effortlessly fly through brick walls with a cape on.
But as we grow up, we have these experiences of shame where we start believing there’s something wrong with us.
And this shame stops us from letting our greatness out. Because we’re afraid if we really open up and expresses what’s inside of us, people will find out we’re not enough and reject us. This is where things get ugly because…
Unused potential turns into inner poison that rots away at our self-esteem.
It keeps us feeling heavy, stuck, and like we’re not living the life we’re meant to. To deal with these shitty feelings, we end up numbing out – gobbling potato-chips, downing vodka, taking hits from the bong, binging on Netflix, and mindlessly Facebooking.
Okay. I’m going to make a strange pivot here, but stay with me…
Do you know who Shaquille O’Neal is? …”SHAQ”? …the NBA all-star and more importantly, the dude who plays a genie in the 90s movie Kazaam?!
Well, if Shaq could grant me any wish, my #1 wish would be that shame was completely removed from every person on the planet.
It’s THAT important. Because shame is what stops us feeling at peace, worthy, and like we’re safe to express the real us.
Unfortunately, Shaq and his genie lamp can’t save us from shame. But there is someone who can. That’s right, shame has its own kryptonite. And when this person appears, it’s impossible for shame to survive.
Mr. Motherfucking… EMPATHY!!! ?
AKA… the almost word of the year!
AKA… the people’s champpppp!
AKA… the thing that heals shame!
(And remember, shame is what’s often at the root of suicide, depression, addiction, eating disorders, bullying, and violence.)
Shame can’t exist if met with empathy!
Mr. Empathy is a real charmer, but he’s a layered character. There are really 4 components that go into empathy:
- Seeing things from another’s perspective
- Not judging them
- Understanding their feelings
- Communicating that you understand their feelings
It’s basically just putting yourself in someone’s shoes. And letting them know you relate to their feelings.
Now, don’t confuse Mr. Empathy with his well intentioned cousin, Señor Sympathy.
Empathy is to feel with someone.
Sympathy is to feel badly for someone.
Empathy makes people feel safe.
Sympathy reinforces people’s victimhood.
Hanging out with Mr. Empathy can kinda be a pain in the ass. Because he requires us to slow down and connect with our own feelings. And really, who the fuck has time for that?
And so do I.
Because what the world needs most right now is not more productivity, it’s more EMPATHY, and it’s on us to spread that shit, one interaction at a time.
Fortunately, we’re not alone. Because empathy was one of the most looked up words of the year. So together, let’s all put our hands in a big circle, make a weird face, shout something cheesy, and go save the world like the little baby superheroes we were born to be!
PS: If you wanna learn more about empathy, shame, vulnerability and courage, Brene Brown is the Yoda of this stuff. Her Daring Greatly book is a must-read.
PPS: If you’re a hip-hop loving philosopher like myself and wanna see an amazing interview where Jay-Z talks about how empathy and compassion are the most important lessons he’s hoping to teach his children, this recent NY Times interview is well worth the watch. Remember: Jay-Z was the epitome of self-serving gangsta rap. He and Beyonce’s net worth is about a billion dollars now. And he’s saying THIS is the most important quality he hopes his kids master.