Category Archives: Parenting

Human Connection and the Power of Empathy

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This post is part of the August synchroblog and the theme is “connection”.

When I think about connection I am reminded that significant, deep, meaningful connection with others is what I want most out of life. I think it is what most people desire. And yet there are times when we find the pursuit of connection daunting.

Brene’ Brown, who researches, writes, teaches and speaks on a range of topics, including connection, vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame says,

“Connection is why we’re here. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives,”

She goes on to define connection as:

“the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

In her books, Brown develops the idea that creating the kind of life giving connection that we are wired for requires empathy and then she drops this on us:

“we can only create a genuine empathic connection if we are brave enough to really get in touch with our own fragilities.”

Boom! There’s the problem, isn’t it!?

In order to experience the kind of connection that we long for we are going to have to put ourselves out there. We are going to have to be vulnerable and take some risks. We are going to have to share our own fears and failings and fragilities.

And we can’t substitute sympathy for empathy. Sympathy isn’t a bad thing – it just doesn’t lead to the deep, meaningful connections we long for – for that we are going to need to “feel with people”.

Here’s the difference in sympathy and empathy:

Empathy is the ability to mutually experience the thoughts, emotions, and direct experience of others. It goes beyond sympathy, which is a feeling of care and understanding for the suffering of others. 

The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce), an enlightenment organisation committed to finding innovative practical solutions to today’s social challenges, created a great animated short that uses Brene’ Brown’s commentary about empathy and how it leads to connection:

If we can learn to be vulnerable enough to risk practicing empathy we open up the potential to experience the kind of life giving, whole hearted, healing connection we long for.

Empathy is connection!

Be sure and check out these other posts for this month’s synchroblog:

Jerry Wirtley – Connection
Sara Quezada – Can You Really Know Someone In A Different Language?
Ford – Interindependence
Michael Donahoe – Connection
Minnow – Our Dis-Connect
Justin Steckbauer – Connection in Love, it’s what Life is all about!
Carol Kuniholm – Disengagement and Connection
Wesley Rostoll – Finding Jesus In Different Places
Doreen A Mannion – A bunny, a fawn and some geese walk into a bar …
Leah Sophia – Touch of Life
Karen “Charity” Aldrich – Wuv True Wuv
Abbie Watters – Connection – Addicted to the Buzz
Liz Dyer – Human Connection and the Power of Empathy
Loveday Anyim – Why Get Connected to God when He can’t be there for Me?

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A Mother’s Love

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When I went to clean off an old desktop pc so that it could be reformatted I only really cared about finding one thing before we erased the hard drive … an email that I sent my son, Nick, after he went off to college for the first time.

Here it is.

From: Liz Dyer

Sent: Thursday, October 06, 2005

To: Nick Dyer

Nick, I wrote the following about you and for you on August 14, 2005 after we had dropped you off at college and wanted to share it with you.

“Everyone is too young to have their first child.

I was 32, had been married for four years, was fairly successful in my career, lived a responsible life.  I was grown-up “enough.”  At least I thought I was – right up until the moment I found out I was expecting.  That’s when the doubts began.  By the time I came home from the hospital with Nick there was no doubt about it,  I felt like a little girl again.  A little girl who had no idea what she had gotten herself into.

Oh, don’t get me wrong.  I was happy.  I was elated.  In fact, I was ecstatic.  I loved Nick from the moment I laid eyes on him.  I loved him like I had never loved anyone in my life.  I am not even sure I really knew what love was before I had Nick.  At least not unconditional, unselfish love.

I amazed myself with what I was willing to do, to give up, to go through to care for him, to love him, to just be with him.

But still, I felt completely inadequate for the task at hand.  To compensate, I read everything about raising a child that I could get my hands on.  I asked my mom questions, sought advise from other moms and picked my husband’s brain.

Just when I would think I had it down, he would change and enter another stage.  Infant, toddler, preschool, boy, adolescence, teenager.  The transitions were there and gone before I could catch my breath.  I couldn’t change gears fast enough.

I left him at college today.  That’s what got me to thinking about all of this.  Mostly, I’ve been wondering how in the world he turned out so wonderful.

I did a million things wrong.  I was too permissive when I should have been stricter, too strict when I should have been more lenient.  I remember that time he was just entering adolescence and I didn’t know what to do – I yelled a lot.  Then when he started to drive I was over protective.  And when I wanted him to do well in school I was too pushy.

But, there was one thing I always did well. I always loved him well.  And it was real love.  Pure love.  Good love.  The kind of love that makes up for a lot of mistakes.  The kind of love that says “even when I am doing the wrong thing, I am trying with every fiber of my being to figure out what I need to do different and better.” The kind of love that humbles a person enough to want to change and to admit when they are wrong.  The kind of love that strengthens a person so that they never, never, never give up and they are always willing to try again.

Scripture says that love covers a multitude of sins.  That brings me so much peace.  Because even though I know I was inadequate to shape a life, I discovered I had the ability to love enough to make up for my inadequacies.”

I love you Nick.  I have since before you were born and I always will.

Thank you for waking up the love in my heart.  Thank you for teaching me what it means to love unconditionally.  Thank you for being a testimony to the power of love.

I love you,

Mom