em·pa·thy – the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner
If you’ve watched or read the news the past few months, you’ve likely heard the debate about whether or not transgender students should be allowed to compete in school athletics. I’ve listened and read many discussions about the topic, and one thing I’ve noticed lacking on one side of the conversation is quite simply, empathy. Let’s face it- you can never truly understand a person until you can consider things from their perspective. One thing to note- empathy and sympathy are not one and the same. While sympathy is simply “the feeling of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune,” empathy is much deeper. Being empathetic is being aware, being sensitive, and meeting others where they’re at.
I would like to challenge you to put yourself in the shoes of a transgender teen. You’re 13. One day you come home from school, turn on the tv, and hear a debate about whether or not you should be allowed to play sports in high school. The people arguing that you shouldn’t be allowed to play sports don’t see what you go through on a daily basis. They don’t see or feel the isolation you experience. They don’t see when you’re upset about being different. They don’t see or understand your confusion because all of your friends are going through puberty, and you’re not. They don’t see you trying to fit in each and every day. They don’t see any of this, but yet, they are making judgment calls on if you should be allowed to play volleyball. One thing about empathy, when you lack it, you’re only able to see through fogged lenses.
I am thankful that there are more and more people in this world living their truth. I’m thankful to live in a world where more of these individuals feel comfortable and protected enough to do so. The bottom line is, I don’t know everyone’s life or story, and neither do you. What I do know is, I choose to meet every single person where they’re at and love them for who they are. When you meet people where they’re at, not only is it a positive interaction for them, but for you. You become more empathetic, mature, respectful, and ultimately grow as a person
LC & Me
As many of you know, this topic is near and dear to my heart because I am the father of a transgender daughter. The journey that LC and I have been on has been nothing short of amazing. I call it our journey because our relationship is unique to us. LC has a journey with her mother, siblings, friends, and teachers, and they all shape her life in different ways. Through our journey, LC has taught me to not be judgmental, to look at things through clear eyes, and overall, how to practice empathy daily. It’s so funny because I often have friends and acquaintances tell me that they “feel sorry for me” because of my life changes. Bottom line, I don’t need sympathy- as the proud father of a beautiful transgender daughter, I need you to be understanding. Be someone open to learning and to understanding other people’s points of view. I want you to be someone who makes everybody feel like somebody and practices empathy daily.
Grace, Class, and Respect
These three pillars are a game-changer. Whenever I find myself frustrated, I remember these to keep me going and accountable. When you’re having a conversation with someone, especially someone who may be different than you, practice grace. Be willing to be receptive and to learn from this person. Be willing to take the conversation to the next level without judgment- when you practice grace, it shows that you have class and value respect. People’s lives can look different than yours, and that’s okay! You can still greet them with kindness, gentleness, and understanding. In business, this can become your superpower- in life, it can make you a better person.
Expand Your Views
What if every day you looked at the world from a different point of view and tried to walk in someone else’s shoes? I challenge you to be curious about lifestyles, go to new places, and try new experiences. We live in a world where people crave to be seen and heard. Whether it’s at work, home, on social media, etc., acknowledgement is the ultimate form of satisfaction for many people. Let people know you understand where they’re coming from. Everyone you ever meet knows something you don’t know. If you want to expand your horizon and grow personally, it starts with being open and receptive to meeting and talking to new people. The more open you are, the more love you will receive. The more love you receive, the more you’re able to give.
Being empathetic will expand your audience, attract people to you, and elevate relationships at the end of the day. My journey with my daughter LC has been beautiful, especially because of the number of positive individuals we have attracted in our lives. Does everyone understand LC and her journey? No. Are we trying to win everyone over? No. Am I aiming to treat everyone equally through education, love, class, grace, and respect? Yes. And, I hope you will too.