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Why I Want You to Shut Up About Ferguson

Why I Want You to Shut Up About Ferguson This post is not about who was right or wrong on August 9, 2014 in Ferguson, MO.

I recognize that this case matters. The death of Mike Brown matters. 

However, what I feel lead to discuss today is the one thing you and I have control over in this situation, which is our ability to shut up extend compassion and empathy for ALL involved.

Compassion and empathy for white people. Compassion and empathy for black people. Compassion and empathy for mankind.

Violence isn’t healing our nation. Spewing ugly “us” versus “them” comments on Facebook isn’t bringing us closer towards solidarity. I honestly don’t see anything being said today that I’d be proud to have our sons read in the history books 100 years from now.

As I’ve said before in my post about Trayvon Martin, “The road to true equality is paved by discussion and understanding.” I believe that begins with one of the most powerful tools God has given our psyche: empathy.

Romans 12:15 says that we are to “weep with those who weep”.

If you’re a follower of Christ, let me be very clear:

No  matter how you feel about this case, you are called to weep with those who are weeping – our black brothers and sisters who feel like their voices aren’t being heard, the store owners who have lost their businesses, Mike Brown’s family, officer Darren Wilson’s family, and an entire community whose hearts feel crushed during this tumultuous time.

What Empathy Is:

Empathy is “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” Simply put, it’s the ability to see the world as someone else sees it.

Empathy is feeling with someone.

Empathy is a 4 part process:

1. Intentionally observing and internalizing the emotions of another | This takes patience

2. Removing our judgment and expectations of the person we’re trying to empathize with | This takes discipline

3. Recognizing their emotion in a way that we’ve experienced or can relate to | This takes courage

4. Communicating it back to the person you’re empathizing with | This takes love

 

I love this quote by Leslie Jamison from The Empathy Exams: Essays:

“Empathy isn’t just listening, it’s asking the questions whose answers need to be listened to. Empathy requires inquiry as much as imagination. Empathy requires knowing you know nothing. Empathy means acknowledging a horizon of context that extends perpetually beyond what you can see.”

It’s seeing someone in the pit, hearing their cry, climbing down into the muck and mire with them and saying, “I see you, I hear you, I feel you… I am here with you.”

[LIVING IT OUT]

It’s the white mom saying to the black mom, “I may not understand your outrage over what’s happening in Ferguson, but as a mother, I can understand the fear of losing a child, no matter the circumstance that surrounds it.”

Empathy takes courage.

What Empathy Isn’t:

Empathy is not looking down in the pit and saying, “What you’re saying/doing is ugly and I want no part of it.”

Empathy is not about casting judgment or placing your own expectations onto another person.

Empathy isn’t about whether or not you agree with the person. It doesn’t mean you condone their actions. It doesn’t mean you have to fully understand it.

Empathy doesn’t divide.

Empathy fuels connection. 

How To Become More Empathetic:

Most people are born with a natural empathy towards others. That’s why we wince when we see someone get hurt or why we feel sad for someone who’s lost a loved one.

Empathy is a continuum of sorts. Some of us can tap into empathy rather quickly – we just look at someone and understand how they’re feeling. Others of us have to really work at it. We have to sit and talk over coffee and spend time connecting to the other person’s emotions until we “get it.”

Thankfully, empathy is like a muscle. We can train it and grow it and learn to use it more consistently as we exercise it in our daily lives.

This is done in two ways: 

1. Understanding ourselves. (If you aren’t “in touch” with yourself, you’ll find it very difficult to share someone else’s emotions.)

2. Understanding others.

[LIVING IT OUT]

If you’re white, it might be taking the time to ask your black friends why many of them feel minimized, discredited and ignored.

If you’re black, it might be taking the time to ask your white friends why some feel a white cop is being persecuted because of the color of his skin.

What Happens When We Can’t Empathize With Others:

The hard truth is that sometimes we simply can’t find a personal experience to relate to another person’s suffering. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we just can’t empathize with them.

That’s OK.

This is where compassion kicks in. Compassion is having “sympathetic concerns for the sufferings of others.” It’s often accompanied by a deep longing to help alleviate the pain of others.

You may have zero empathy for a teenager who gets shot after choosing to steal from a drugstore. You may not be able to connect at all with a cop who shoots an unarmed teenager.

But you can choose to care for both.

You can choose to pray for them. You can choose to let love pour out instead of anger. You can choose to forgive rather than burn with bitterness.

Don’t get it twisted: Empathy is powerful stuff. It’s vulnerable stuff. It’s miracle-working stuff. 

Sometimes it’s downright painful to search within ourselves to dig up a feeling that can connect with another. Sometimes it really hurts our pride to let go of what our reaction would be in the same situation, and instead, accepting the other party’s emotions for what they are: their emotions.

Ultimately, the goal of empathy is to connect with another person, to understand where they are coming from with the hope of shrinking the gap between “us” a little more each time.

The trauma that Ferguson, MO is experiencing is gut-wrenching. No matter how you slice it, people are hurting. Right or wrong. They. Are. Hurting. Instead of judging their hurt, let’s sit in it with them. Let’s try to understand.

Back to the title of this post – if we’re going to start somewhere, let’s start by shutting up and listening to the people who feel differently than we do.

Connection is what people want. Let’s give it to ’em.

We’re all in this together. Let’s start acting like it.

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Posted on by WifeMomSWoman in Superwoman 28 Comments

28 Responses to Why I Want You to Shut Up About Ferguson

  1. Wes

    Really love this, D. It’s so frustrating reading the outrage over the riots that are quickly accompanied by racially charged statements. Understanding and empathy is much easier when we allow ourselves the perspective of the people around us, it’s how we grow and gain new wisdom. It’s also how people can heal.

     
    • WifeMomSWoman

      Thanks so much for reading/commenting, Wed! I always love it when you stop by my blog :) You’re right, it’s absolutely the beginning to true healing and CHANGE!

       
  2. April Gooch

    THIS. A higher command, a KINGDOM command. Love every word and I couldn’t agree more. We need unity and selfless love requires true empathy. Perfectly written!

     
    • WifeMomSWoman

      Thank you so much, April! I appreciate you reading/commenting! Xo – Deidre

       
  3. Nicole R

    Thank you! I needed to hear this morning! A great reminder for me as I deal with a completely unrelated conflict that has been deeply affecting me this week. I could certainly practice more empathy in my life!

     
    • WifeMomSWoman

      Oh that’s so cool, Nicole! I’m so glad this was timely for you, whatever it is you’re facing today. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment :) Xo – Deidre

       
  4. Jen Kelchner

    D, thank you for your transparency and empathy! It is so difficult to weigh in on these situations and you have done it with grace. I mean the real kind of grace – LOVE. I love that you say “CHOOSE”. It is a choice. Life is hard, messy, unfair, unpredictable, and rarely a clear defined picture of truth. Love truly covers mistakes, pain, injustice, and more. To choose to care for our neighbor despite their stance on an issue, is real love. The only thing that can bring a community to a place of healing. And man, that can be so hard to walk out. Again, thank you for your courage in reminding us to live out our love the right way. xo

     
    • WifeMomSWoman

      Thanks so much for reading/commenting, Jen! I always appreciate your support :) And yes, this is a really difficult thing to walk out. Praying God gives us the grace to continue forward in the fight for true equality and peace!

       
  5. Sally Skiera

    I wholeheartedly agree with you that the response of the nation has been anything but empathetic. Now is the time to come together to grieve the many atrocities that have happened regardless of “right or wrong”. I disagree, however, that we need to “shut up” about it. Whether this incident was originally racial or not, it has hurt many innocent people, not the least of which the many businesses that were destroyed with innocent people’s livelihood taken from them – these people that need to feed their families, pay their bills and get through the holidays. NOW is the time to spread the empathy, have a listening ear and yes, even dare to discuss racial matters that exist and even thrive in the inner cities. Let’s make this awful situation become the impetus to move us forward as a country so the history books will read that we gained better understanding of what is and perhaps is not racist. As a Christian, my response must be one of empathy and understanding. I will donate to businesses destroyed and do all in my power to make something good come of this horrible situation without placing blame.

     
    • WifeMomSWoman

      Thank you so much for reading/commenting, Sally! It is absolutely heartbreaking about the businesses who have suffered during this time. I agree with you – we absolutely need to have a discussion. The title was more for “punch” to remind people how important it is to listen FIRST. That’s where true empathy beings :) Xo! – Deidre

       
  6. Kelly

    Deidre,
    This was so welcomed in my heart. I was terrified watching the news and so sad that we have used this situation to point fingers and make this purely a racial issue. I love that you made this post and brought the issue back to us as individuals. No one likes to look at themselves as part of the problem, but sometimes that’s what it takes to gain forward momentum. This event is so sad from all angles and adding a lense of compassion is what we need :)

     
    • WifeMomSWoman

      It is so sad, Kelly. We are all a part of this because, if one of us hurts, we all hurt. Thank you so much for taking the time to read/comment!

       
  7. Martha Lopez

    Love this post! Thank you for this reminder!!

     
    • WifeMomSWoman

      You’re welcome! Thank you for reading/commenting sweet Martha! Xo

       
  8. Christina

    Love this! I haven’t known what to say in response to all the stupid things I’ve been seeing online, but you put it to words well.
    There’s not much we can do that’s helpful, but empathy is a perfect place to start.

     
    • WifeMomSWoman

      Thank you so much, Christina! I wish there was more we could do… but I agree, empathy is a great starting point. I appreciate you taking the time to read/comment!

       
  9. Nathan B

    There is so much terrific perspective here. Irrespective of what people think about the case itself, you have provided some great insights into appropriate responses that folks on all sides should take to heart. You have managed to speak truth to the entire situation without isolating any particular view. Very impressive and very helpful. Thanks so much for sharing!

     
    • WifeMomSWoman

      Thank you so much for “getting it”, Nathan. I appreciate you reading and commenting! It means so much :)

       
  10. Regina

    I love love this break down on empathy, and how we can practically apply it.

    And I always love that you have the courage to use your blog to speak up for women and people of other ethnic backgrounds. Thank you for taking the time to listen and to care and to fight.

     
    • WifeMomSWoman

      Ah… thank you Regina. That means so much to my heart. We’re ALL in this together – ALWAYS. Love you, friend.

       
  11. Amanda

    Deidre, thank you for for this message! I’m so sick of hearing all the negativity. From the snarky Facebook posts to the arguements in article comments to the commentators on TV. I think there are many of us out there who feel as you do, and it’s a blessing that there are those out there like you that have a platform from which to speak and use it to provide an alternative to all the negativity. I recently read a Facebook post from Saints player Benjamin Watson that pretty much says it all and provides a solution through Christ. I don’t have the link at the moment, but it’s gone viral, so it should be easy to find if you’d like to check it out. I think you’d also appreciate his message, as I did.
    Thanks again and Happy Thanksgiving!

     
  12. Ashley Cain

    Thanks Dee! Really tough stuff. Thanks so much for the encouragement to live out our faith by practicing empathy towards others. Blessings and Happy Thanksgiving!

     
  13. Kim

    Thanks so much for this! I shared this with my mom, since we were just talking about it. We are always discussing things and I always talk about being empathetic, so the steps on how to become more empathetic were so valuable!!! Thank you for getting to the heart of how to talk about difficult topics.

     
  14. Sharon S.

    America needs to read this and act accordingly! Beautiful and very much needed.

     
  15. Pingback: This is Me | FAQ's of Deidre & WifeMomSuperwoman.com - Part 1

  16. Tamsyn

    Couldn’t agree more.

     
  17. Marianne

    Deidre, this was a really powerful post and one that needed to be said. Thanks for not being afraid to speak your thoughts.

     
    • WifeMomSWoman

      Ahhh thank you for the encouraging comment, Marianne! That means SO much – especially on this post :) Xoxo – Deidre

       

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