Friday, April 06, 2007

Another Lesson This Week

Another thing I learned this week -- or was reminded of in the course of leading a spring bike tour and being around both friends and strangers -- is that most people really don't appreciate, much less LIKE, other people's sensitivities.

If you're known as a "sensitive person," you'll catch a lot more flak and be the recipient or target of bossy advice. No matter how enlightened some people seem to be in other ways, they often seem to sharply resent what they perceive to be the naiveties, vulnerabilities, and sensitivities of others.

It's as if even our friends want us to be tough, tough as they define tough, good at what they are good at, to be, of course, in a phrase, more like them, to think inside their box, to act on their stage. Or to skeedaddle and get out of the way.

And so we're back to an important aspect of the spiritual quest, the quest to become not merely sympathetic but empathetic towards others. Sympathy is like a $25 check you write to a charity. Empathy is getting in there with the cause. Cause and effect. Most of us are just along for the ride, happy to mourn the effects, not wanting to do the work of considering our role in the cause.

And so it is with others' sensitivities. As we shun or ignore them, we belittle ourselves. Mockery makes for good fun, but it leaves a bad aftertaste. I should know: I've done tons of mocking myself. But in memory, I'm tasting that taste.

And to boot, I am a sensitive person, reveling in vulnerabilities as well, even laying them out for others to see because I see great challenges there, great growth to be had in the prickly underbrush. And so I'm ripe for the kind of disdain that the tough throw at the tender, whether to their faces or behind their backs.


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