Why would any of us hurt the one we promised to take care of?
Lack of empathy is at the core of the problem. I was struck with what we are all up against while watching a Star Trek (Yes I’m a Trekkie) episode. Spock had volunteered to be possessed by an alien presence so that it could communicate with Captain Kirk of the Starship Enterprise.
As soon as it entered Spock’s body, its first reaction was, “Oh, how lonely you must all feel.”
You see, in the alien world, they were all connected to each other through telepathy so that each one could feel what everyone else felt. They were all emotionally bonded to each other. But as soon as the alien possessed Spock’s body, it realized that we humans are all cut off from each other emotionally. And it viewed our state as incredibly isolated and lonely.
One of the most important consequences of our emotional isolation is that we cannot feel the way we affect others. And that creates the temptation to hurt others because in doing so we don’t feel the pain we cause. If we were connected emotionally to others as the aliens were, we would be far less tempted to do anything thoughtless, gaining at someone else’s expense. That’s because in so doing, we would be hurting ourselves as well.
Lack of empathy helps makes thoughtlessness possible. Since we don’t feel what other’s feel, we tend to down play the negative effects we have on others, and consider our thoughtlessness to be benign. We forget that even the smallest negative word or tone can amplify itself when directed to someone who has placed their whole trust in us. An angry outburst is regarded by some as a creative expression, that “I’m not holding any emotions back even if it means hurting yours and you should appreciate that.” Disrespect is viewed as helping our partner gain proper perspective on “how things should be, not how you are, because how you are is wrong.” And a demand is nothing more than encouraging someone to do what he or she should have done all along. None of these is seen as one person gaining at the other’s expense, because the one who is inflicting the pain does not feel the pain. But one thing is for sure, that when lack of empathy and understanding of the other persons position or thoughts are missing, resentment starts to build. More times than not, people don’t realize this and if they only did, it would all be avoided but only if they chose to take that path. The key really then, is to seek to understand and be understood. Acceptance will come.