I never thought I’d become the “C” word.
I cringe when I remember my teens. Not that they were too bad even though I was quite shy, but because I totally lacked tolerance for ideas other than my own. And those ideas were usually put into my head by my peer group. I had arguments with my father about unions, the Vietnam war and my brother tells me I also told him I was communist. I had fixed ideas that would not change and I would argue the point until I was blue in the face. The set ideas remained dominant in my head until I was into my 40s I think. Mind you they changed along the way. But I was never any good with empathy. In a personal crisis, if it didn’t affect me I kept out of it, and never volunteered sympathy.
The dictionary definition of ‘empathy’ is: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
People change slowly, so when I gained empathy I cannot say. However, I do remember a daughter being disgusted with a fellow worker who was found in a toilet shooting heroin. I found my daughter’s lack of compassion surprising as my initial thought was that it was sad for this person who had a drug addiction and would lose her job because of it.
So today I think I’ve become tolerant. I can usually see another person’s point of view. I can empathise with another person’s situation. I can look at the news about refugees and have sympathy for their plight. All of the hate directed by some I ignore as my thoughts are that we would be in a similar situation if we were born in their country. However, I do believe I have become more sceptical of the media as they do seem to stir up trouble, making those who have not yet acquired tolerance incapable of compassion toward our fellow man.
I’m now able to put myself in other people’s situations, which I consider mature. Some people are born compassionate, but I certainly wasn’t. It took years of growing up to get there.