Empathy

So I got to the office pretty early this morning, on account of a lift from a kind neighbour, and I made it here in time to enjoy staring out our big glass windows while listening to a podcast: To Endure on TED Radio Hour. It featured three personalities, but my focus was particularly drawn to one.

Monica Lewinsky.

Past the fact that she was the White House intern whose affair with Bill Clinton was brought to light in 1998, very few of us (myself included) have failed to be empathetic towards this brave woman. Take a moment. Imagine what it’s like to work closely with someone from the office and then develop feeling for them. Say you take it to another level. Like any normal woman I know, you talk to a friend about it. Downside, your friend records the private conversations and leaks them to create one of the biggest sex scandals in American history.

Does the scenario sound plausible? Our friends and colleagues sometimes confess that they have had affairs outside of their relationships or with people in relationships. Usually, we just listen. Worst case scenario, we tell someone else. If we’re decent enough, we rearrange the details of the story so that the real owner of the story (yes, owner, because it is never in our place to share such personal details unless we have been allowed to) remains anonymous. If you’re Monica Lewinsky, you are shamed all over the world by people of all ranks and ages, your former lover denounces you on national television while referring to you as “that woman”, insulted on social media and your name (both names) become synonymous with whoring, your mother has you take showers with the day open because she is afraid that the scandal will quite literally kill you.

That last part hit me hard. Stop for a minute and imagine having to take showers with the door wide open and your parent right outside the door because neither of you is confident that all the public scrutiny you’re getting for a publicized private mistake will not push you to suicide.

So the next time you think to put up a nasty, hurtful, racist, hateful, prejudiced message about another human being, think about what you’re putting people through. Another human being like yourself. Because I am willing to bet that you are as flawed and vulnerable and hurt as we come.

Life is already hard enough, let us take minute to be kind and nice and spread a little warmth around us. Let us do what we can where we are to make the world around us a warmer and more accepting place.

Pssst!  Here’s more on Monica’s own Ted Talk, The Price of Shame, and an eye-opening article on some of the consequences of social media comments on the same featured talk,  This Is What Happened When We Posted Monica Lewinsky’s Ted Talk.

Have a great weekend, everyone! Let’s spread some empathy, shall we?

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