I’ve been talking a lot about stories lately, or my whole life… ya know, whatev. One of the things I love about stories, non-fiction and even fiction (particularly if it’s, at least somewhat, realistic fiction), is that there is a potential to take us out of ourselves and into the story – into another person’s world. I love that. I think we NEED that. Not because we need to “escape reality” – although it is sometimes nice to kind of “get away” through a story – but, there can be a higher purpose. Stepping out of our lives and into other people’s lives helps us to develop a better understanding of the world, of humanity, and the way we all fit together. Because, we do. We really do all fit together. There is one BIG story going on in the world and, whether we see it or not, it’s all connected. We would do a much better job of playing our part in the BIG story if we had a better understanding of the other characters.
It would do us a world of good, or I should say, it would do the world a lot of good… if we would be more intentional about placing ourselves in other people’s shoes… taking time, making effort, choosing to think and imagine and empathize with others so that we see them as PEOPLE, real people… not as just as Other or enemy or ______. We do not need to become them, or agree with them, but just set ourselves and our agendas aside and TRY to understand them.
A sociologist named Sam Richards did a TED talk recently about empathy. In it he performed “a radical experiment in empathy,” asking his audience to try to understand the motivations of an Iraqi insurgent; not to agree, but to understand.
Honestly, doing such things is difficult. It takes intentionality and effort. It’s draining. It’s emotional. And it’s definitely not about fun or escaping from reality. But it is dealing with reality and trying to understand all sides of it, which is always – in my opinion – beneficial.
Here’s the video. See what you think. (I think that this is not just true and needed when it comes to politics or war as in his particular experiment. I think it also applies very strongly to following Christ and sharing the gospel. Think about that too. If you want.) :)
For more thoughts on this TED Talk from a person smarter than me (who I stole the video from) … click here.