“Empathy begins with understanding life from another person’s perspective. Nobody has an objective experience of reality. It’s all through our own individual prisms.”
~ Sterling K. Brown
I took this photo last year in Croatia. I was walking through Diocletian’s Palace when I saw this woman sitting on the doorsteps, quietly smoking her cigarette. Watching her sitting there, alone, with strangers passing by without paying her any attention, I find it quite poignant.
Of course, I dramatised it in my head. She’s probably just having a break from work and is happy not to have to talk to any annoying tourists for a moment. But I can’t help to think of a story to support the image that I see. I guess, that’s the storyteller in me.
What we see and what we think that we see, are two totally different things. But very often we are oblivious of the thin line between these two statements. And sometimes it leads to big consequences. Especially nowadays with social media controlling our judgment.
I think that we tend to see what we want to see and we convince ourselves that our story to the image is true. When a story is attached to an image, we are not objective anymore. Even though we have nothing to do with the whole situation. There are not many of us who can jump out of the story and be objective without making a judgment. Seeing things from a different perspective.
Here’s a recent example in the Dutch newspapers. Two guests were invited to a talkshow. One is a tv host who has been wrongfully accused of taking bribes and during the investigation she was treated like a criminal and nobody wants to have anything to do with her. The other guest was a father of a rape and murder victim. The tv host told her story, telling everyone how bad it was to be treated like a criminal and being wrongfully accused and how it affected her mentally. In her perspective, she suffered badly from it. Later, the host of the talkshow mentioned in an article how he was hoping that this tv host would’ve reflected her feelings on the feelings of the father of the murder victim. Implicating that what she has suffered is nothing compared to what the father of the raped and murdered girl has gone through.
A lot of people agreed with the talkshow host. They already formed a judgment after reading this article. They ventilated on social media how insensitive the tv host was, whining about her problems while the other person has suffered ten times worst. But, is this fair? Should she be the only guest that night or paired with a different guest who didn’t suffer such tremendous trauma, wouldn’t we have sympathy for her? Wouldn’t people have different thoughts about her situation? But yet, she was paired to somebody who’s lost a daughter on a very gruesome way and she has become the whiny, insensitive woman.
Is this a fair comparison? Both have suffered a trauma, but because in the eyes of the audience one is more severe than the other, does that mean that for the tv host it is not horrible what’s she gone through? And thus, she has no right to complain about it? Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s horrible what happened to the father. And as a mother, I, too, think that what happened to the tv host pales in comparison to losing a child. But I am aware that something tragic happened to both of them. And that they both suffer from pain. But just because we, outsiders, grade the sorrow differently, does not mean that the person who suffered the, in our eyes, less severe trauma is hurt less and therefore suffers less pain. By thinking this way only shows how insensitive people themselves are. Something that these people should reflect on, but they don’t see it, because in their eyes, they are right. Perspective.
However difficult it may seem, we all should learn to see things from different perspectives. How often do we hear that one opinion leads to disagreement and sometimes even causes unnecessary fights between two groups. Only because they see things differently. Let’s try to understand each other and understand the situation before we judge. Or even better yet; try not to judge. If we all start with ourselves, this world may eventually become an even more beautiful place.