Irony is when we judge others as lacking empathy

There are times
when it seems so clear
that the fault
is ours.

I raised my child poorly.

I lead my company to bankruptcy.

I failed to support my spouse.

This often happens
when there are two things
equally clear
if you’re willing
to see them.

First,
is that you’re someone
who is willing
to take
responsibility.

Second,
is that you have
emotional needs.

Perhaps the need
to be forgiven.

Upon seeing these two things
clearly,
may you learn the choice
to take responsibility
for fulfilling
your own emotional needs
as well as worrying
about the emotional needs
of others.

As programmers,
it’s easy
to conflate debugging
with problem solving.

Yes,
when debugging is complete
the problem
is solved.

But while debugging,
we spend most of our time
trying to see
the code
alive.

The code
that describes a living system.
One comprised
of parts,
their relationships,
and their impact
on one another.

Seeing the code alive
is akin to comprehending
what is really going on.

Once we comprehend
what is going on
problem solving
is often
straightforward.

We often forget to do the same
when not programming.

Especially
with people.

Instead,
we jump
to problem solving.

We often assume
we can take
someone’s perspective.

Until we realize
that the perspective we took
wasn’t theirs
or that it wasn’t the one
we needed.

To make up for this
we sometimes think we can get
their perspective
by asking.

Until we realize
that people aren’t always aware
of the whereabouts
of their own perspectives.

At which point
we realize
that the only way forward
is to discover
their perspective
together
until
we realize empathy.

It’s not you.
It’s me.

The person I’m speaking to
in conversation,
that is.

It’s true.
I sometimes speak
with my past self
instead of you,
the person
in front of me.

I know
this can confuse
sometimes even anger
or frustrate
you.

When that happens,
I want you to know
that it’s not you,
it’s me.

It’s just that,
the pain
of my past experience
is simply too much
to bear.

So although
I know
that as a leader
I must do better.

There are times
when it feels
as if I must proclaim
—No, shout—
in order to remind myself
to never experience
the same pain
ever again.

We look at our hands
and see the fingers,
often forgetting to appreciate
the spaces
between them.

Yet,
without spaces
there are no fingers.

In much the same way,
we may look at a chain
and see the connections,
forgetting to appreciate
the boundaries
between them.

Yet,
without boundaries
there are no connections.

The word respect
is made of
re and spect.

Re as in “anew,”
Spect as in “to look.”

Interestingly enough,
a popular Korean phrase
“다시 보다,”
—which literally means
“to look again,”—
figuratively means
“to see something
or someone
anew
due to the unexpected revelation
of something worthy
of appreciation.”

p.s: Thanks to Connie Crawford, for having been the first person to have directed my attention to the roots of the word “respect,” back in 2011.

Standing alone
requires
being supported
by a solid foundation.

May we not conflate
standing alone
with
not needing support.

When we hyper-empathize,
unlike when we empathize,
the distinctions
and boundary
between “self”
and “other”
vanish.

So when we feel
the “other”—
be it a person,
a thing,
or an idea—
is in danger,
it feels as if we
are in danger.

This makes it natural
for us to throw ourselves
onto incoming traffic
to save the lives
of such an other.

To us,
this does not feel
like a sacrifice.

It merely feels
as if it’s a universal
human
reflex.

So much so
that sometimes
we think the other
would have done the same
for us.

Whether or not that is true
is beside the point.

Within what we call
our “self.”
there are many
“others.”

“Others,”
we aren’t fully aware.

“Others,”
we don’t fully understand.

“Others,”
we don’t fully appreciate.

I often hear people say
empathy
is about the “other.”

If so,
may our pursuit of empathy
begin
with the recognition
that our understanding of empathy
will become more clear
as the separation between “self” and “other”
becomes less clear.

We often say
we need
“alone time,”
when what we mean
is we need
connection time.”

A time,
when we can feel connected
to nature,
to an imaginary character,
to a singer who seems to understand
what we’re going through,
to our thoughts and emotions
through an author
who is willing to help us
reflect.