two women sitting on ground near bonfire

Sympathy v. Empathy – #1

Do me a favor.

The next time someone says,

I’m struggling with something

Don’t say,

We all go through it.

Don’t paint over their wound.

It takes trust to admit, strength to say

I’m hurting.

When you paint over their struggles with a broad brush dipped in the thick blandness of We,

The red of their struggle doubles down,

Its pigment sticks with them and to them and in them and nothing you ever do again will completely rid them of that red.

But when you say instead,

Tell me.

When you ask,

What did that feel like?

When you say,

I’m so sorry. That must have hurt.

The red paint flows, slow at first but nonetheless

Away from their skin and their wound and their soul and into the river where it can go.

And when they see their red mixing into the color of We,

Let them assign meaning —

Or no.

Let them decide if their red matches anyone else’s red, or complements someone else’s hue.

It’s theirs.

Not we.

And not you.


About Christine Wilcox Anderson

Writer, former corporate communications exec, and perpetual student of life on this rock.
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