Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Empathy is not Pity

Mr. Webster I need your help with definitions:

Empathy – noun: the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes or another.

Pity – noun: 1. sympathetic or kindly sorrow evoked by the suffering, distress, or misfortune of another, often leading one to give relief or aid or to show mercy. 3. to feel pity or compassion for, be sorry for; commiserate with.

I don’t want to be pitied. Yes, that is not what I have been seeking by writing this blog or by talking about my infertility. I’ve been seeking empathy.

Lets focus on the words. Pity’s definition states: “give relief or aid or to show mercy.” Well, in my opinion most people cannot “fix” my problem, therefore they are unable to “give relief or aid.” And the only one that can “show mercy” is God. The only time that pity is applicable, per the definition, is when another infertile “commiserates with” me. (Please note that I include spouses/partners of infertiles when I say that because they are just as much effected.) Yes, pity is not allowed by people who are not experiencing the same thing. Therefore, if you are not experiencing equals no pity.

Empathy on the other hand is what I have been seeking. Unfortunately, many people never learned to empathize. To put yourself in another person’s shoes and to imagine how it would make you feel, if you were going thru what the other person is going thru. To imagine and understand the other person thru empathy.

My friends, this is what I am seeking from the vast majority of people in my life. Hence the reason, I have shared my blog with some of them. It is that by providing my thoughts, it is a means to provide insight so that empathy and understanding is achieved. Ultimately, I think that is what most people want. To be understood. And, it is really what I have been seeking.

Some people have excelled. They have been able to think about how they would feel if they were going thru the situation. They have been supportive and helpful, by listening. Because, honestly, when you practice empathy that is all you can do.

Others have not excelled. If you can’t empathize, and yes I recognize that some people don’t have that capability. I respectfully request that you attempt the following. Determine that you cannot empathize. If you don’t know what I am going thru and you don’t know what to say. You are not allowed to speak to me about the topic. The only statement you should make, “I don’t what you are going thru, and I can’t imagine.”

Also, if reading this blog has left you feeling pity, and you are not experiencing infertility, than please stop reading. It has not served its purpose, I never wanted you to feel bad for me.

I have a good life. This is only one aspect of my life that I wish it was not what it is. It is life altering, hence why it is currently so consuming to me. Having children is life changing, so taking that possibility from the equation is equally life changing. I am desperately coming to decisions/conclusions about my life and my husband’s. Life altering decisions, not having children is as equally distressing when it is what you thought would be your reality. Coming to another dream of your and your husband’s life is an enormously big deal.

Recently, a friend stated she “pities” me because I define myself by my fertility or my lack thereof. I do define myself by my infertility. If I rationally look at the situation, I know that is not the only thing that defines me. But, put yourself in my shoes, empathize. It really is no different than someone who defines themselves as single or a mother or a cancer patient or a cancer survivor. Ultimately, that is what they see when they see in the mirror. For someone like me, who in all intents and purposes thought she would have the title of mother by now, it is logical that infertile is how I define myself at this point. After all it is the reason why I haven’t reached my desired title.

Also, I don’t expect this to be the case for all times. I imagine with time, when we decide on the next path or something else becomes our reality (whatever it may be). I will view myself differently than I do in this moment. I will determine that I will title myself something else, but I believe I need to get to the step where my husband and I have come to a different dream. A different want for ourselves. Ultimately, infertility will not be the first quality that I see in myself. But, only God and time will help with me getting to that point.

Until then, try to empathize…it can be a valuable exercise, you may find that you need some in your own life.