By Jennifer Stamps
Empathy. It’s the ability to feel what others are feeling. The good, the bad, the ugly. All of it.
As I write this, it’s only been a few days since the Parkland shooting. I vowed to learn the names, photos, and stories of the lives cut short on that day. As I read their stories, I can’t help but feel an overwhelming amount of sadness. Deep, immense sadness for people I never knew. I started grieving the lives gone. Again…of people I never knew.
It started to make me feel guilty. A little embarrassed. It was as if I lost my friends. Or people I grew up with. I felt it. But why? Sure, sadness in any tragedy is expected, but it consumed me. And as I tried to compartmentalize it, I felt even more guilty. As if I was trying to push it aside and ignore the pain.
Then I reminded myself that I have the gift of empathy. I call it a gift, because ultimately it is a gift, although in times of tragedy it feels far from it. To be able to feel a piece of what others are feeling can be overwhelming at times. Why me? Why was I given this gift? And what am I supposed to do with it?
Compassion. Understanding. Even advocacy. I believe it’s part of my calling. And not something I should hide or stray away from.
I was given just enough anger, sadness, and grief to help. I know I’m not alone. There are many of you who were given the gift of empathy as well. It’s important that you know it’s that; a gift. You don’t need to be ashamed for feeling what others are feeling. You don’t need to feel guilty when you try to package it up just enough to go about your day – it’s a way of coping with this precious gift and it’s an important skill to learn. Just remember that you’ve been given the permission to feel those emotions without judgement or guilt.