We all have busy lives, hectic schedules, and chaotic calendars. Why would we even think to take the time to do something extra for someone else? Should we consider the benefits or just take action?
Now I know what you’re thinking: this is just another essay on how you should donate to the homeless, volunteer at an animal shelter, or help raise money for cancer. Of course, these acts of kindness are perfectly noble deeds, but I want to discuss something on a smaller scale, something that comes before the compassion, something called understanding.
I believe there is nothing wrong with our consciences – we judge what is right or wrong based on our learned knowledge, outside influences, and our instincts. Obviously, there are many “gray areas” in debating whether something is right or wrong; to a great extent, every person is entitled to their own opinions and beliefs. However, the problem lies not in the “gray areas”, but rather, in mutual understanding, or the lack thereof. Without understanding, a solution can only be temporary.
I’ve seen it happen.
My own friend, who is struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts, is constantly in pain – sometimes I feel hopeless myself when he describes his situations, because all I can do is be there to listen, express how valued he is, offer suggestions, brainstorm solutions, and provide emotional support; the rest is up to him. It’s up to him to understand himself, his situation, and the consequences of his potential decisions. It’s up to him to realize that his parents only want the best for him. It’s up to him to come to terms with the fact that suicide doesn’t solve anything. It doesn’t end the pain, it just passes it to someone else.
I am not here to talk solely about suicide prevention. Empathy can and should apply to our everyday lives, especially when we interact with the people around us. To quote Atticus Finch from the book “To Kill a Mockingbird”: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his_skin_and walk around in it.” Not only do we need to understand others, but it is crucial that we understand ourselves as well. Once we have achieved understanding, the next choice is to accept it or change it through action.
If you or someone you know is thinking about self-harm or attempting suicide, please call the toll-free, 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255