Empathy: We All Walk A Different Path

One reason I sometimes dislike labels, like liberal, conservative, and even minimalist and traditional, is that they separate. They divide. Whenever we create division, we forget to consider others’ paths. Everyone has had their own struggles. Labels lead to having less empathy.

Recently, I read a blog post called, 35 Things I Hope My Kids Will Say About Their Dad by Joshua Becker. I like most of Joshua Becker’s writing, but this article got me to thinking about my own writing. About considering others. About empathy.

The First Two Items On The List

1. “He loved us.” I could see it in his words, his face, and his actions.

2. “He loved our mom.” And was always faithful to her.

Do you notice a problem? The second item on the list makes the assumption that dad is happily married. There is no consideration for the divorced, the single dads, those who have walked a hard path, dealt with spouses with alcoholism, drug addiction, or extreme mental illness.

Becker, as many others do, is writing from a traditional American perspective. I’ve read similar posts from Michael Hyatt, another guy whose work I respect, but also overlooks the non-traditional family.

As a man who had to divorce to protect his own daughter’s life, I find it concerning when others speak of fatherhood and marriage as if there is only one perfect model.

Stuff Happens: Things Don’t Always Work Out

Those of us who have dealt with extreme circumstances don’t need to hear over and over that being a good dad includes being a faithful husband to the perfect wife. It’s a stereotype. It falls under the “traditional” label.

As writers, we need to practice empathy. I’m certain my record is not perfect in this regard, but I’ve been through enough, seen enough, to understand that we all walk a different path.

Take minimalism for instance: Minimalism suggests that we must learn to live with less so that we can find more happiness.

Happiness does not come from living with less. Although living with the simple necessities may increase contentment, happiness comes from within, not without. This means that it doesn’t really matter how much you do or don’t own. What matters is how you live.

Recently, The Minimalists posted:

Most organizing is nothing more than well-planned hoarding.

I wonder if either of The Minimalists have ever had a loved one or a close friend with severe OCD? If they had, they may be a little more sensitive and understanding when using terms such as hoarding, a documented psychological disorder in the OCD family.

Let’s Practice A Little Empathy

I agree that the average American owns too much crap. But there are thousands of people who have a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder that leads to hoarding. I wonder how they feel when others label them as obsessive Americans. They likely already know they have a mental illness and they’ve probably tried without success to defeat it. That’s why I simply try to offer simple solutions without judgment.

And what of those with weight issues? Bloggers often brag about their workouts, marathons, and healthy diets. How does that make those who have struggled with their weight feel? 

Bloggers Can Appear Too Perfect

When we write from a single position, whether it be minimalism, success, traditionalism, or one of hundreds of other labels, it’s easy to forget empathy. It’s easy to forget that each individual has a unique perspective based on their own struggles and hardships. We all walk a different path.

As a kid who was the victim of a cult, to a young man who struggled with drugs and alcohol, anxiety and depression, to a single dad who has dealt with a messy divorce due to an ex-spouse’s extreme case of OCD, I know the hardships that life can deal out.

Like many others, I’ve learned to overcome. I’m a survivor. I’ve kicked bad habits and bad luck to the curb and got on with my life. But that will never give me the right to forget others’ struggles. As a writer and blogger, I’ll always do my best to practice empathy. I hope other writers and bloggers will consider the same. 

Dan Erickson


James Ewen
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