Humans are products of their environment and experiences. I am who I have been made into. I remember being a young girl working at a homeless shelter with my dad and asking, “Why is that man so angry? Everyone here is trying to help him.” My dad responded with a thought-provoking statement: “If you had struggled and been mistreated your entire life, how happy would you be?”
Those words resonated within me, and they changed my perspective on people. That was my first experience with true empathy. In that moment, I realized what it felt like to acknowledge someone else’s pain, even if I had never been in his or her situation.
Today, I place empathy at the core of my morals, and I try to avoid passing unwarranted judgment. I’ve come to realize that every single person is different from the next, but those differences aren’t necessarily flaws. Many people assume that any other opinion besides their own is wrong, but that kind of mindset spreads toxicity. The beauty of having an opinion is that it’s solely your own, and while others may share the same opinion as you, no one can take it away from you. Every single person has a unique collection of experiences that have molded them into who they are, shaped their beliefs and given them an individual outlook on the different aspects of life. It is empathy that allows us to overlook our differences and find unity in even the hardest of situations, and it is empathy that human decency is built upon.
Whenever I remember that experience in the homeless shelter, I’m reminded of the importance of acceptance and open-mindedness. There is a reason why people are the way they are, and just because you don’t know the reason, doesn’t mean that it’s not significant or an integral part of their personality. I believe that it’s crucial to try to understand people before passing judgment on them. Show empathy. Show human decency. Care. That one experience at the shelter may sound small, but it changed my outlook on people. I genuinely believe that everyone has redeeming qualities if you stick around long enough to find them. I take this mentality with me everywhere I go, and it has made all the difference in my life. I have become a more open-minded person and my relationships have become stronger because of it. Empathy is the most powerful emotion one can feel, and I am so blessed to have learned how to utilize it. Everyone deserves to feel like someone cares enough to know and understand them, and that is the power of empathy. This, I believe.