Identifying with another..!


AS my daughter visits me from the US, I remember a time some years ago when she came her eyes filled with excitement, “I’ve got a first class with distinction,” she said.
“Congratulations!” I said and hugged her. I looked at her and remembered the same face streaked with tears two years before as she learned she had failed a semester; not for lack of academic prowess but for not completing her projects in time. It had been a bitter blow and to compound it she had not been able to go onto the next year with her friends and classmates. I had watched anxiously as she struggled with different emotions for over a month and then bit by bit she found a new strength. Today her face glowed with happiness.
“How do you feel?” I asked simply. “Dad,” she said. “Now I’ll always understand someone who fails or is going through a rough patch. Never will I call that person a loser!”
The reason for her empathy, of course, is that she could identify with the person or the event. The word “identify” originally comes from the Latin root “idem,” which means “same.”
When we identify with someone, we feel the same sadness or ecstasy the other feels and we understand another’s plight. A nurse spoke about how she acquired this valuable trait: “I was a registered nurse for quite a few years. I always thought of myself as an empathetic person, somebody who was able to reach out and understand what someone else was going through. Then I was diagnosed with cancer and realized I never really knew the true meaning of the word “empathy.”
“Unfortunately, it sometimes has to be learned and not taught!” “I found out just how much even a smile means to someone who is sick and so scared about what is happening in their life. Because of my cancer I found out how much it means to have someone take a few minutes and be friendly and just talk…I hate the disease, but it has taught me much!”
This woman had worked compassionately and professionally for years, but now there was a whole new dimension in her dealing with patients. She identified with them. She knew how they must feel and responded differently. And she had become a better nurse and person because of it.
You may never treat hospital patients, but is there anyone in your life who would benefit from your ability to identify with their pleasures or their pains, their wild dreams or dashed hopes?
That day a few years ago, I looked back at my daughter’s smiling face and thanked a God above: A year’s failure had built a life time of empathy..!
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