Thursday, June 20, 2013

Empathy - moments in friendship

I have found that since starting this process that my experiences are not the large, life changing experiences I had at the beginning. Instead I've found that by reviewing my days I can find little moments of empathy where I try to make the best choices I can.

Empathy Moment - secrets and friends

I've got a few people in my life who I'm not close to, but I would like to be close to. I'm doing my best to build a friendship with each of them and empathy often plays a role.

This week one of these want-to-be-friends of mine revealed something about himself that I didn't previously know. It was a secret - and a big one. Something he'd been hiding from me intentionally.

At first, I reacted with feelings. Feelings of betrayal (how could you NOT tell ME FIRST!!!) feelings of low self-worth (don't you LIKE ME?!?). Etcetera, all of the normal stuff that arises before I have a chance to think about it.

Then I tried to put myself in their place. I remembered what I knew about this person. He calls himself  'closed off' and 'restrained'. He keeps his thoughts and feelings close and rarely lets people in.

Thinking about this reminded me of the way I used to feel about wearing clothes. I used to think that if I dressed in loose clothing, nobody would judge me for how my body looked. If they couldn't see it, I reasoned, they couldn't judge it. Lately I've realized that people will judge me based on exactly what they see, on exactly what I show them. If I show them baggy, hiding clothes then maybe they will judge me as a person who had something to hide.

Although I've made the conscious choice to be more open than I've ever been, I do remember what it felt like to hide behind baggy tee-shirts. It felt safe, and it felt like I wasn't going to be judged.

So I choose not to judge him for his choices. I left myself with the space to be there for him, and to step away from my selfishness. 

And I hope we can be closer in the future.

Are you more open, or closed? Who are you drawn to being friends with?



susan thom said...

for some reason, i am more open. my mother might have something to do with that. she was compassionate and non judgmental. and got those thoughts across to me. i have friends who are gay, friends with 3 or more kids, friends that are divorced, those that are single, those that have no kids, those who like rock music, those who like contemporary, those who have big homes, those who live in apartments or condos, none of it matters to me as long as they understand my way of thinking so we can have good conversations. they don't have to think my way, but they do have to be able to debate in a calm and understanding way.

Janet said...

Thanks Sue. It sounds like you are open, but do you have friends that are less so?

susan thom said...

no, i really don't have friends that are less open. as I've mentioned before, my friends and i have gravitated to each other because of our common beliefs and interests. i can't tolerate those who judge others for any reason. "There, but for the grace of God, go I." there are some cases where i do tend to judge, as in caycee anthony or child molesters or abusers, or priests that molest, but i think just about anybody judges these types of people. however, what someone wears or how many tattoos they have, or piercings, or weird colored hair, or odd clothing (in my opinion)is no concern to me as long as they are honest and compassionate, kind, and loving. it makes for an interesting life, as well.

Janet said...

Hi Sue,

I don't know if we're talking about the same thing. It sounds like you are equating 'open' with 'non-judgmental'. Is that right?

In my story, I did talk about being able to identify with this person because I remembered what it was like to not want to let others in. To not want to be judged. But that's not what I mean by being open.

To me, being 'open' means being exposed and vulnerable, willing to let others see all of the intimate details about who you are. I think the term I've heard before for this type of person is 'wearing one's heart on your sleeve'.

So let me phrase my question again. Do you have friends who are less willing to talk about themselves, but you still consider them friends?


susan thom said...

yes, i do have friends who are more reserved and private about their lives. many of my friends are open because I've known them for over 20 years or more, and they trust me, but there are still some who keep their private affairs to themselves, which is fine, i respect that, and i still consider them friends.