Our Fundamental Responsibility to One Another?

Our Fundamental Responsibility to One Another?

“Later that night
I held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?
It answered
~Warshan Shire 

Day 1 of Someone To Tell It To’s compassionate training, offered to the general public (virtually), drew to a close. With ten minutes remaining, each of the attendees from eight U. S states and five countries were given the opportunity to express how they were impacted by the content and the discussions throughout the day. In a moment of extreme vulnerability, one attendee, an executive, took a deep and a sustained breath and stated:  

“This course has helped me understand, maybe for the first time in my life, how much pain people are living with.”  

Since first hearing the participant’s statement we’ve done extensive reflection, causing us to wonder

How many others have had a lack of understanding around others’ pain? 

And how has this happened? Is it due to a sense of compassion fatigue, so much so, that we’ve buried our heads in the sand? Is it due to a lack of empathy or a lack of caring for others’ needs? Or, does it have to do with the lack of social connections people are experiencing in everyday life and therefore aren’t known on a deeper level?  Lastly, and most significantly as it pertains to Someone To Tell It To’s mission, is the question: 

What is our fundamental responsibility to one another, especially to those in pain?  

Each one of those questions probably demands a lengthier conversation than one blog post.  But we do believe it is time to pull our heads out of the sand, to enter the ocean and do a deep(er) dive to address the problems we are collectively facing as a society.  

The late Fred Rogers said: 

“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.” 

For too long we’ve been assuming that healing our pain is up to each individual and doesn’t belong to the general public, especially at work. But reality tells us that as communal creatures we have a collective responsibility to heal one another’s pain. The problem, though, is that we can’t heal what we are unaware of. We wonder how many others are unaware of the amount of pain people are living through? Those you pass on street corners, by office watercoolers, even in our own homes are feeling things deeply.  We believe we can be heroes by taking responsibility for our actions and making a positive difference in the world around us.

We thought we would share with you what some folks around the proverbial waters coolers of our lives are living with:  

  • “I am a brain surgeon. I became an alcoholic because my job is either success or failure each day.”  
  •  “I work on the palliative care floor of the hospital. As a result of the sustained trauma of my work, my marriage fell apart. I am burnt out because I have to be the bearer of bad news to families each day.”  
  • “I am in law enforcement. I haven’t processed most of what I see and hear every day with my wife. I started drinking, questioning life, and generally unable to find happiness.” 
  • “I’m in a work culture where I’m not valued for the unique skills I bring to the team. Being me and being comfortable being me is a daily challenge.”
  • “Yesterday my Aunt died.  She was my very best friend.  I have to come into work today but I don’t have a chance to sit with my feelings and grieve.  That’s why I came to you to have a place to talk it out so I can function today.”  

We believe that it is right, possible, and good for all of us to do what we can to care about and for those around us, for all of us – everyone – has struggles, challenges, burdens, fears, and sometimes, pain. We believe that there are some simple things we all can do to help be more sensitive and empathetic to everyone around us:

  1. Assume the person in front of us is in pain or at least is living with worries and concerns that are pain points in their lives.  Assume that everyone is carrying a lot because most likely we are; there is so much happening in the world and in our personal lives and we need permission to feel the individual and collective pain of all that. If we are unaware of what someone else is living with, we can still respond with empathy.  
  2. Create the space for vulnerability. However, vulnerability cannot nor does not happen without good listening. If someone feels like they might be shamed or judged for what they feel, they most likely won’t reveal the deeper realities of their lives. There has been a big push in the corporate world (and the world at large) to express vulnerability with those we trust. We would argue, though, that vulnerability doesn’t happen if we don’t listen with compassion.  
  3. We are better off when we are all better off. Empathy and listening leads to better results by helping individuals remain strong, steadfast, joyful, resilient, and hopeful. Empathy and listening on a collective level lead to emotional connection, open communication, a sense of belonging, collaboration, creativity, problem solving, and most importantly, trust.  

These are basic ways that all of us can respond to those around us to show kindness, grace, and support to the burdens that all of us carry. When we do, we will be helping to make this world and this life a kinder, brighter, more caring place in which to find the goodness that we believe all of us are meant to have.

Photo by Maxwell Nelson on Unsplash


Join the movement! Sign up for our newsletter.