In the summer of 2008, I started journaling that I wanted to stop judging people all the time. I couldn't stop and didn't know how. So I opened my hands to learn.
Over the course of that summer, SIX of my dear friends or family confronted me with words that pierced my heart: I was offensive to them. I had caused them harm. They felt judged by me. See, I thought I was hiding my judgments, but they felt it. And it hurt them.
I was so ashamed that I wanted to fall through the floor and disappear. But I leaned in and listened, even when the shame was uncomfortable to bear. I began to learn empathy, which is taking the perspective of another. This was a defining moment in my life journey; I began to understand how even my thoughts could impact others.
That journey toward increasing empathy eventually led me to my role at The Beacon. Every day, we take the perspective of women who have been handed some of the hardest experiences that life has to offer. Through empathy, we reframe their addiction and mental illness as coping and surviving in untenable living circumstances. When we extend kindness to them, it gives them permission to extend kindness to themselves, which is the best that life has to offer.
Judgment is easy; it's our default. Empathy and truly seeking to understand each other takes work. But, I assure you, when we meet people with empathy, we all benefit.
If your organization wants to participate in an empathy-building exercise, send me an email.
In this together,
Melissa Vine, MA, LMHC