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The other team

A phrase oft heard dur­ing any given sport­ing event where the heav­ily favored team finds itself on the score’s short end is “the other team prac­tices too.” Mean­ing: noth­ing is a given and no mat­ter how tal­ented, or bet­ter on paper, some­one or a col­lec­tion of some­ones is than the com­pe­ti­tion, if you dis­miss the other team out of hand and don’t com­pete up to your abil­ity level you will not win. Ever.

The same prin­ci­ple applies to life. We all have our bur­dens and bat­tles; our pri­vate lit­tle hell that can and all too fre­quently does con­sume us. These must be tended to, oth­er­wise they can severely dam­age us. Some­times irrecoverably.

This duly noted, it is easy but dan­ger­ously short­sighted to exclu­sively focus on our own sit­u­a­tion, neglect­ing to note that the other per­son has prob­lems too. John Donne was right; no one is an island. We all have oppres­sive ele­ments beset­ting our every day and every step.

To behave as though we alone are suf­fer­ing while every­one else is on their own under the veneer of “they know their prob­lems and I don’t” is pathet­i­cally short-​sighted. Empa­thy is not con­tin­gent on com­plete under­stand­ing of some­one else’s pain. We are all human, and we all share humanity’s com­mon threads.

It is equally short-​sighted, with a hefty dose of nar­cis­sism on the side, to focus so heav­ily on our own prob­lems while neglect­ing to value oth­ers suf­fi­ciently to, at the least, inquire as to how they are doing that our life becomes a one-​note samba of “woe is me.” The other per­son hurts too. Their hurt is equally impor­tant as ours. Ignor­ing them while bemoan­ing our state helps no one. It makes the other per­son quite apt to won­der why they should help, or care for, us when our actions and words make it appar­ent our con­cern for them extends only as far as their will­ing­ness to feel sorry for us. And, sim­ply put, in such a sce­nario we are doing more than enough feel­ing sorry for our­selves to where the other per­son has zero incli­na­tion to join our pity party regard­less of how deeply they care for us. We are push­ing them away at a time when we most need them.

The other per­son mat­ters too. Ask them how they are doing. You will be sur­prised how much it helps you both face the wounds and scars we all — all — bear.

A phrase oft heard during any given sporting event where the heavily favored team finds itself on the score’s short end is “the other team practices too.” Meaning: nothing is a given and no matter how talented, or better on paper, someone or a collection of someones is than the competition, if you dismiss the other team out of hand and don’t compete up to your ability level you will not win. Ever.

The same principle applies to life. We all have our burdens and battles; our private little hell that can and all too frequently does consume us. These must be tended to, otherwise they can severely damage us. Sometimes irrecoverably.

This duly noted, it is easy but dangerously shortsighted to exclusively focus on our own situation, neglecting to note that the other person has problems too. John Donne was right; no one is an island. We all have oppressive elements besetting our every day and every step.

To behave as though we alone are suffering while everyone else is on their own under the veneer of “they know their problems and I don’t” is pathetically short-sighted. Empathy is not contingent on complete understanding of someone else’s pain. We are all human, and we all share humanity’s common threads.

It is equally short-sighted, with a hefty dose of narcissism on the side, to focus so heavily on our own problems while neglecting to value others sufficiently to, at the least, inquire as to how they are doing that our life becomes a one-note samba of “woe is me.” The other person hurts too. Their hurt is equally important as ours. Ignoring them while bemoaning our state helps no one. It makes the other person quite apt to wonder why they should help, or care for, us when our actions and words make it apparent our concern for them extends only as far as their willingness to feel sorry for us. And, simply put, in such a scenario we are doing more than enough feeling sorry for ourselves to where the other person has zero inclination to join our pity party regardless of how deeply they care for us. We are pushing them away at a time when we most need them.

The other person matters too. Ask them how they are doing. You will be surprised how much it helps you both face the wounds and scars we all – all – bear.