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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Empathy and Selfishness

Almost every problem people have in their relationships can be traced back to feelings of being unloved, underappreciated, or misunderstood. This is because people, for the most part, only pretend to be in relationships. A relationship, you see, should come with an assumed and insurmountable degree of empathy. Selfish is, instead, the third and invisible member of most relationships. We don't realize it because we push those thoughts away in the interest of portraying the image of ourselves we wish for other people to see. We may not care to admit our selfishness, our actions may in fact speak to a more gracious and giving nature, but thought, though easily hidden, cannot be denied. Selfish thoughts live inside all of us and are most often kept at bay, sacrificed for a more "acceptable" and considerate way of living.

It is the distance between what we say and what we actually feel that determines the emotional state of our relationships. I am not saying that we should all be selfish and fight for every miniscule idea that presents itself. It is the lack of honesty and empathy that makes our selfish nature ugly, not the selfish nature itself. It is nothing to be ashamed of, we were built this way. It is the way we were made. Most of us see a situation, a person, an act and first think of our feelings and how it affects us and then second we introduce everyone else into our thinking. Whether you choose to admit it or not that is the truth. We rarely act on these inclinations, taking the high road, choosing others best interests instead but that doesn't make our thought processes any less real.

Selfish is the birthplace of bitter, angry, and depressed. Negative emotions are what happen when we finally reach a breaking point. This usually happens when our outward giving nature doesn't reap us the rewards we seek and any suppressed, self serving thoughts come to the surface. We don't want to hurt anyone and we certainly don't want to tarnish the way we are viewed. Our apologies after the storm are sincere. But we will continue having to make them if we don't recognize the simple truth. We are selfish just like everyone else. Every single person on the planet harbors selfish thoughts. When they make us feel unloved or unappreciated or misunderstood, they are simply acting out the same internal battle we all are fighting.

Empathy is the key to ending that battle. Understanding that we are all trying. We can understand our own thought processes easily because we know what they are born from. We know where they begin because we have walked with them for our entire lives. When we apologize and our sincerity is shunned we long for understanding that other people can't always give. What we need to do is to stop relying on our relationships to give us the lift we desire. We need to accept the fact that the flaws in others that hurt us are flaws we all share. It isn't a personal attack when we are hurt by those we love. It is a simple, outward expression of the internal battle we all fight to remain good in spite of our respective selfish natures. Our love for others is constantly put on trial in the midst of the many mistakes we make, but even when doubt surrounds us we know our own hearts and the truth of the love we feel. Before you put someone else's love on trial, remember that they are just like you, flawed and fighting.

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