I am feeling pretty devastated and hurt right now.
Sometimes, a conversation in which you’re trying to help others to understand goes awry. And it turns into one giant misunderstanding that snowballs into disaster.
I had a conversation like that recently. A part of it was my fault, I believe, for not being clearer or more concise and for being too emotional about it.
It confirms that some people just can’t get it, or they choose to not want to get it.
Either way, the truth is that everyone has the capacity to “get it,” albeit to varying degrees, if they really want to try.
My husband and also several good friends of mine have shown me this. They are not adoptees, and yet they have made efforts through reading and through drawing on their own personal experiences to understand the adoptee experience. And I believe they would agree that doing so has enriched their understanding not simply of the adoptee experience but of life and the people who live it.
Seriously. You can know what it feels like to be an adoptee. You can understand it, if you’re willing to spend a little extra time thinking about it or trying to relate. Really, I believe that any of us has the capacity to have compassion on anyone, if we’re willing. But that’s the key—are we willing?
That’s why I like to quote Chang-Rae Lee from his book, Native Speaker, "I ask that you remember these things, or know them now. Know that what we have in common, the sadness and pain and injustice, will always be stronger than our differences."
I have come to believe over the years, that if we are willing to go there, we can tap into our own suffering and hardship to reach out to others—to show compassion, understanding, kindness, and sympathy.
Of course, as is it has been said before, “Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy.” Indeed, it is not as though we can walk in someone else’s shoes or live someone else’s life, but we can learn to relate. We can learn to show compassion and foster understanding.
I may not be able to understand the devastation of losing one’s spouse to cancer, but I can draw from my own experiences of loss and grief to have compassion, to try to understand the emotional journey that someone must take as they cope with such an experience.
If you know what it is to lose, then you can understand to whatever degree you choose, the emotion that others may experience when they, too, have lost.
But the hard part is being wiling to go there, being willing to allow yourself to feel that pain, on someone else’s behalf. In order to feel compassion, we must be willing to feel the pain and hurt ourselves, and not everyone is willing to go to that place of grief and loss for the sake of someone else. It takes a lot of energy and a lot of love.
I admit, I have failed at this time and time again. But I want to keep trying. I want to learn to have compassion, to show empathy—to use what pain and suffering I have experienced to reach out to the world, not in anger and rage, but with hope and love.
I have a long way to go. Sometimes, I let anger get the best of me. I know I can’t be perfect, of course, and at times, I will feel the slow burn or the quick rise of anger. But the goal isn’t to never feel angry.
Rather, it’s what I decide to do with that anger that matters.