Empathy Cuts Both Ways

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When I left Mormonism, my heart began to open and I saw all the pain and hurt in the world.  The tragedies that I ignored, due to my selfishness and belief that Christ would return one day, so there wasn’t a need to really fix things, so to speak.  This is a poem I wrote one night, while feeling the weight of everything I had ignored and having my new perspective.

“I long for the days when my heart was closed.”
This is the cry I make from time to time.
Caring hurts.
My heart used to be sealed tight.
Maximum Capacity set to 7.
My arrogance, selfishness and ideology allowed me to live this way.
I thought I was happy. Life seemed singular and simple.
All things were eternal, allowing me to ignore or justify the Now.
However, misery set in, as my ability to love was conditional and limited.
When my walls came crashing down, after years of growing cracks,
My heart opened for the first time.
Initially, it was euphoric, as the feelings of Love permeated my soul.
My circle of influence quickly expanded.
I was able to show empathy for friends, strangers and social causes.
The world and those around me needed to feel what I was experiencing.
Taking a more active role in society caused my heart to swell and I was empowered.
My family also benefited from my increased happiness, as I became more engaged with them.
My son started writing about me in his first grade class,
“My Dad gives me big hugs and plays with me now. I love his big hugs.”
In the past, I thought I could be closed off, yet open to my wife and kids.
But I was wrong.
I couldn’t see my negligence until my kids expressed honest joy in the light of my new affections.
My heart broke.
Commitments and convictions renewed.
However, empathy is a two edged sword.
You feel the pain, misery, loneliness, heartache and desperation of those whom you care about.
The weight of those rejected by their loved ones because of who they are.
The inequalities that surround us and our society.
Seeing people struggle for daily bread or ability to afford mental health services.
You reach out, give money and support when needed but you can’t escape one emotion…
Guilt.
Why are you so fortunate, while others are not?
These burdens begin to fill your heart.
It’s like a water balloon with a small leak, at first.
Tears flow at unexpected times and you fear it will burst with no ability to control.
Add your personal struggles to these outside influences and it seems unbearable, at times.
Especially when your challenges might outweigh anything else you experience.
More real. More critical. More life changing.
More Life Saving.
Can I do this? Can I take this on me? Is it worth it?
Principles and motives tested.
Heart keeps pumping, as you learn to focus on the victories and new friends.
Relying on the support of those you love.
It becomes stronger and more resilient, able to take in more pain and compassion.
Society changes through individual enlightenment and evolution.
You played your role.
This is where I hope to be.
I want to be able to handle the misery but focus on the joy.
Filter it into meaningful actions of change.
I just wonder, at times like this, if I can…..

(picture courtesy of rohan7things.wordpress.com)