Someone shares an experience or emotion of woe followed by a slight pause, a pause full of expectation, hope. The eyes spill out: “Come and share this with me, come and relate to my experience, come help, tell me you understand, come and validate..
Against this, I am eager, baited with bated breath. Driven consciously by a desire to set things right (and likely by an unconscious desire to solidify an experience that validates myself, gives me some credit) I want to participate, I want my imagination to leap in, I want a bond of understanding to develop. Where possible, I want to advise with wisdom, redirect the future to the benefit of all, drive off all anger, anxiety, jealousy, denial.
Convinced that I have “Put myself in their shoes”, I dive right in, dish out my own (more often than not self-untested) philosophies, conclusions and judgments in abundance. I recollect from somewhere that a person “walks” 1,000,000 miles and to fully relate to their experience, you would need to walk each step with them. Nevertheless, with undiminished ego, I plunge into the next opportunity to “relate”.
I find myself reflecting on this today in the midst of a relationship calamity which is not only on my doorstep, but very much in my heart. It seems that from the distant verge of my understanding (where I try to incorporate pieced-together snippets of my own experience/imagination), I am about as helpless as I can be. Logic (and my psychologist) tells me that I can validate (and help?) merely by listening, by hearing, by loving. Easier said than done- applying slippery judgments in the name of love in today’s society has never been easier. So easily justified and yet so invisibly harmful.
I cannot relate fully. And yet I am saddened by the sadness of others. And in this paradox, I realize that I am human, and that I have to accept that, and that others are human too, and that replacing judgments/advice with acceptance may permeate into compassion and healing.