Empathy and Moccasins

MoccasinsAbout a decade ago, this happened. I would have been about 49 at the time and my client just a few years older, in her early fifties.

Explaining her life situation to me in an induction call, she said: “I turned 50, my mother died and then I went through the menopause. I feel as though I have been in a fog for three years.”

I remember what I thought. A big part of me in that moment thought “Oh, for goodness sake. GET. A. GRIP!” I’m not proud to admit that, it was early days for me as a coach.  I know better now.

And then this happened. My mother died, I turned 50 and went through the menopause. Yup, Life, the great joker. Only then did I truly understand what my client was talking about.

Or did I? I could certainly empathise, even before I went through the identical set of circumstances, the effect of which combo I couldn’t possibly have imagined before. But even then, what did I know? What do I know? What do we ever know of another’s struggle? I knew only how it felt to be me.

We know approximately. But we don’t know identically. It’s not the same, it’s only similar. We can have empathy. And we might always choose to remember this proverb:

“Great Spirit, grant that I may not criticize my neighbor until I have walked a mile in his moccasins”

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