Empathy, Compassion, Reslience, Boundaries

Hands, by jclk8888

Dear Son,

Over the past couple of days I have had a couple of long and very deep conversations with your Oma.  It has been very hard for her to be so far away from your mother and I. She feels left out, as I’ve not shared very much about this pregnancy with her.  She has been worried about not being able to be a part of your life, and she worries that your mother and I will not share photos and stories with her.

At first I was not sure what to make of all of her worries and fears.  Especially as she expressed them with anger towards me.  But I took a breath and tried to see things from her side.

Your Oma has always struggled to find a family that loves her the way that they should.  Your great grandfather, Ford, was a terrible man who was cruel to his children. Your great-grandmother, Shiela, was terribly dependent, and didn’t feel like should could care for children on her own.  When Ford left, Sheila abanoned your Oma and her little brother and sister… she just walked out on them.  Oma was taken in by your great-great gandmother for a time, but she became very sick and died of cancer, leaving Oma suddenly alone again – her uncle Harold tried to take her in, but back the a single man raising a little girl was considered improper, so no matter how much he fought for her, the rest of the family forced him to leave her for another family member.

Eventually Oma was taken in by her aunt Laura, the woman I hve treated as my grandmother all my life.  And Luara was a loving, caring woman, but she and Oma clashed a lot.  By then, Oma had a hard time trusting people, as you can imagine.

When Oma and Opa first started dating, Opa’s mother, Ruth, didn’t approve.  Even when I was a little boy, and even though they cared about each other, your Oma and my Oma argued a lot.  They had a hard time being kind to one another.  My grandmother, Ruth, is a wonderful and lovely woman, but she cared a lot about making sure her sons married well, and that her grandchildren were raised right.   Your Oma had a hard time feeling welcomed into the family sometimes.

When I thought about your Oma’s life, sudenly a lot of her hurt feelings, and her anger mae a lot of sense to me.  Your Opa, your Uncle Luke, and I are the people who have always loved her and never abandoned her.  And she has been made unwelcomed by family members a lot.  My being too quiet must have made her feel abandoned and unwelcome all over again.

When I remembered this, I made myself a promise to make sure your Oma is always welcomed and always loved in our household.  That I will fill her inbox with pictures and stories of you.  And it was a lot harder for my own feeling to be hurt by her anger.

Even when we don’t understand the feelings of others, we need to remember that they often have a good reason for feeing them.   It helps a lot to try and imagine what they must feel given their own experiences.  When we look at other people’s feelings, and rspect that they may have a very good reason to feel them – that is the very heart of Empathy.

And when we understand that those feelings are about their own experiences, and are not really about us.  Then they don’t bother us as much, after all we know that their anger or hurt is not really a reflection on us, but rather a result of their own experiences – and their own imaginations.  And this is the key to Resilience.

When you understand where other peple’s feelings are coming from, you also can choose to help them work through those feelings.  You can figure out how to give them a little comfort and peace of mind.  This is what e call Compassion.

When people show their hurt feelings, and you treat them with compassion, but yoou also don’t allow them to hurt you, treat you badly, or let them make you feel miserable, that is having good Boudaries.

All if which are the qualities of a wise man, a good friend, and a great leader.

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