I meet the most incredible people in my work. Struggle as they might with various vices like substance abuse, serial monogamy, stormy relationships or keeping a job, the people I’ve worked with consistently have a surplus of one thing I highly value: empathy.
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It seems as if people who have suffered greatly often have the ability to understand other’s pain at a deeper level than most people. Often they have a depth of insight that far exceeds their “normal” peers. When they offer support, it touches deeply and effectively. But they are much better at helping others than themselves.
Most importantly, they are unique among those who suffer. They have asked for help facing and fixing their problems. Being willing to accept help gives them the willingness to look themselves squarely in the mirror and be willing to see what is really there. When they look at themselves, they feel a withering sense of shame about how responsible they with all that has gone wrong. With help, they see in exaggerated clarity all that they need to change. Shame has a way of discouraging any imagination of escape from the pattern of repeating mistakes. It often keeps people stuck or in denial for years. The willingness to walk through that process of sharing the darkest and most shameful events in their lives requires great courage.
Many times, all they really lack is a way to get beyond the shame of what they find inside themselves, make the changes and move on. Once they achieve that, they blossom before my eyes. And they are forever grateful.
Most days, I feel as if I’ve learned so much from them that I feel a little guilty getting paid to do this. Only a little… ;o)