Brad Levi Ayala
Empathy without compassion can be cruel. It would be like sitting next to a choking man, listening to his pain, reflecting back his words “I can’t breathe”, and then not helping, or worse, not pulling the knee off. To stop at understanding is not to address suffering.
True empathy inspires compassion. When we put ourselves in the shoes of someone else, attempting to see the world through their eyes, we can take “Right Action” as Thich Nhat Hanh calls it. Action that addresses the immediate issues. And action to improve the underlying systemic structure of those issues.
Marching to create mass attention. Signing petitions to build momentum. Sitting on a cushion to look deeply within to uncover unconscious bias.
And actions that focus on transforming our society into one where Black Lives matter in words and deeds. A society where everyone’s needs for safety, dignity, fairness, and support to fulfill our potential are met. For far too long we lived with horrible racial injustice.
I have not figured out where to begin, although I know it must be grounded in loving-kindness.
Thich Nhat Hanh and many other traditions offer loving-kindness prayers. First, fill yourself up with loving-kindness. Second, wish loving-kindness to a loved one. Then to someone neutral. And end with someone you struggle with.
This Friday, June 12 at noon CST I offer a free Zoom-call around how we can nurture loving-kindness amidst the grief, despair, fear, anger, confusion. A moment to come together for empathy and community.
Elly van Laar
Coach for Nonprofit Leaders