I’ve always valued strength. Throughout my adult life I’ve been quite contemptuous of weakness in all its seemingly endless forms. As I’ve matured, I realize there are many reasons for perceived and actual weaknesses:
Adults come in different packages, have innumerable life experiences, backgrounds and situations that contribute to or detract from who they are and how they behave as well as why they’ve acquired any of the weaknesses I may notice and subsequently turn my nose up at.
Knowing it’s not my place to judge, I try to – and I have to some degree succeeded – be more understanding of others motivations, actions and decisions, but it’s a tough practice to execute across the board. And that phrase, across the board, is key, because cherry picking which situations deserve understanding and which don’t isn’t really empathy.
So, why am I not more empathetic?
I actually have tons of empathy for small children and pets. Not quite endless amounts of understanding – even a baby lover like me has limits when you run across the occasional pint sized terror that only a mother could love LOL – but a considerable amount. They’re often helpless and at the mercy of others, and their innocence and giving natures make it hard for any reasonable heart not to soften.
I also have empathy for young adults. Not quite as much – know it all teenagers will get on anybody’s nerves – but certainly more than I have for many adults because I know it’s likely those teens will come into a significant amount of understanding as they mature. I did.
Adults? Meh. That’s the challenge for me. See, I know that life is, let’s say, 87 percent built on choices that we make. You choose not to work, you don’t eat, or you end up at the mercy of someone telling you when you can eat and what you can eat. You choose to sleep around, you risk damaging your body, spirit and mind. You choose to drink a lot, you end up fat, could develop life threatening health issues and unless you’ve got a generous trust fund, you likely will end up broke etcetera, etcetera.
Now, I realize that I’m coming from a position of strength. I wasn’t poor growing up. Terrorists weren’t routinely bombing my suburb. I went to great schools. My parents took an interest in my schoolwork and accomplishments and encouraged me to excel in that environment. I was encouraged to have faith. I had role models who worked hard, enjoyed life and were truly generous to others. None of this, if I feed and clothe you, you have to work as an unpaid maid/or creepy/revolting surrogate wife. My parents didn’t drink or use drugs, ever. I was exposed to different things, taken on vacations, allowed to read what I wanted, as much as I wanted. I’ve always been healthy. Thankfully, nothing tragic or terrible has ever befallen me * knocks on wood.
These things make for a solid foundation, which makes it easier for someone to position him or herself to make good choices. For many the things I’ve listed are a luxury. That foundation, or lack thereof, has A LOT to do with our choices, and by association my lack or surfeit of empathy. So, I guess I am empathetic, just not always for adults.
Things are rarely as cut and dried as I prefer them – what is that about? LOL – I know it. But after a certain age, I just can’t get past the idea that the choices you make give you or get you one of two things: space to whine a bit while you work on making things better, or a big ole hand full of shut the fuck up, you made your bed, lie in it.
I don’t have all the answers. I do have a lot of questions though. And the desire is there, to be more empathetic. I’ve made that choice.