“……empathy is the key to understanding and forgiving others. Through empathy we can comprehend their fears, their beliefs and their needs……Empathy heals the individual at the same time that it heals the world. It is the sister of compassion and the child of unconditional love.”
Brian L. Weiss, M.D.
I am currently reading an excellent book titled The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. It is about two very different sisters who lived in Nazi occupied France during the Second World War. The older sister Vianne has a young daughter, her husband is in a prisoner of war camp in Germany and she lost her job as an elementary school teacher because she stood up for a colleague who was being dragged off for questioning by Nazi soldiers.
Isabel, only 19 when the war began, is rebellious, outspoken and restless. She works for the French resistance against the Nazis. She is brave, foolish, follows her beliefs, suffers and trudges on as she helps British RAF soldiers downed in France escape over the Pennines from France to Spain. Meanwhile, in her small town in France, Vianne has a Nazi Captain billeting in her home and is attempting against all odds to feed her small child and survive on next to nothing in the brutal French winters.
For five years these women persevered under unendurable odds. Their will to live, to make a difference, and to love were all they had to hold them and little Sophie, Vianne’s 6-year-old daughter, from totally giving up to death, or worse, the enemy.
I have profound compassion for both women. Their will to survive and the challenges they were faced were horrendous. I have empathy for Vianne because I can see myself in her place: trying to find warmth, food, clothes, peace, some sense of safety and not die of loneliness, humiliation, fear……doing things she never would have expected herself to do out of despair she never would have imagined having to face.
I am not the kind of brave that Isabel is. I could not face up to the enemy as she does nor could I endure the hardships of walking up winter mountains for four terror filled nights, sleeping days and eating only apples and cheese, constantly knowing death in various forms was waiting for her and for the men she is trying to save. I don’t understand how one can push oneself that far: right up to the edge of physical exhaustion…..and still go on.
I can find empathy and compassion for Captain Beck, the father of two, husband of a woman he loved, living for years away from his family and forced to insinuate himself into Vianne’s home and life and watch her as she becomes weaker and weaker. He is humane. He maybe was into something what?……..unexpected?…..unforeseen?…..he could not possible get himself out of?
Empathy and compassion. Weiss says through empathy we can understand others fears and needs; it is through empathy that we heal self and others….the world. Understanding why someone might do or need something though not always agreeing with them. He goes on further to say that compassion comes from the heart. We can learn to be compassionate, learn to see differences, and choose to have a kindly, even loving heart.
More on these two words: empathy and compassion, as the week unfolds.
- I am grateful I am feeling better right now than I was an hour ago
- I am grateful I have clients coming any minute
- I am grateful Aimee is visiting her puppy school friends today
- I am grateful for no big snow storm again
- I am grateful for magnificent healing, relaxing essential oils
With compassion, and hopefully empathy, Nancy