Episode 45

The Motherhood Unmasked podcast with Vanessa A. Harris Episode 45 Empathy Matters

Empathy Matters

Empathy is a life skill.

It makes for the most sought after doctors and the most celebrated societies.

Empathy is a whole vibe that’s gotten harder to find in our modern thoughtless, touchless, and tense culture.

But it is the way of the civilized and you and I have the influence to bring empathy back on the scene. I’m excited to get into this one today and grateful you’re joining me!

Listen to Episode 45

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Homework: I Feel for You

Let’s make meal time a time to slow down, look each other in the eyes and hear each other’s hearts. And when we know the people around the table at home care, we can empathize with our neighbors near and far. We’re building homes and generations, one family at time.

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Episode 45 transcript

The 8 minutes and 46 seconds former police officer Derek Chauvin’s knee pressed on George Floyd’s neck was a clarion call to the soul of a culture more cruel than compassionate, empty than empathetic.

And like you, I’m layered. So, as a black woman, I saw it through the lens of 400 years of collective trauma—a variation on a wearying theme.

But as a mother called, like you, to nurture the next generation, I wondered—is empathy still a thing?

In episode 9, I invited some mom friends to speak to their role in reshaping the race narrative going forward.

Their answers were as sobering and sincere as the question deserved.

But what about empathy? Isn’t it a fundamental part of all human interaction? Where and how is it cultivated? Stick around for a heart to heart in episode 45 Empathy Matters.

Hey there, Mama Bare. Vanessa here with compassion, candor and clarity for you, the mom trying to raise caring children in an all too cruel world.

Hey, friend. I’m so glad you’re here to help me wrestle with the messy business called empathy.

Why messy? Because one, it’s inconvenient in a go, go, go culture. You have to slow down to really see someone much less care about them.

And two, empathy is a feeling. Half the reason we’re running around like headless chickens is we don’t want to feel a whole lot.

Feelings are complicated.

And once you feel something, you have to do something with it—and if you’re honest, going numb is just easier.

One of the things that’s grieved me since putting my children back in public school after our homeschool stint is what I hear when they recount their day.

The stories they tell about what happened to whom and their tendency over the years to care less about the hurt and chuckle at the heckler.

It’s not surprising when you herd children, who don’t know each other, together for 8 hours a day, but it means I need to be intentional about creating a very different environment at home.

When I look at the criminal justice system, social media, politics, school sports or school anything, I’m left wondering what happened to human beings—the ones who are supposed to be distinguishable from all other creatures by our souls?

When did we lose the art of seeing people, of listening to someone’s pain, imagining it being ours, and allowing it to move us to compassion?

The Good Samaritan account is a walk in the park compared to the callous way we treat each other today.

And I get the temptation to hopelessly throw up your hands and say uncle, because the world has gone to hell in a hand basket, but you’re an influencer, remember, and your platform has a humanizing effect in a detached society.

What platform? Yep, you guessed it, I’m back to the table, your table.

I’m like a dog with a bone when it comes to the kitchen table because when it comes to your family’s development, it’s the most important spot in your home.

In the Table Talk episode, 43 I believe, we talked about the opportunity family mealtime gives everyone to check in with each other.

And on those days when the heavens open and your child gives you more than a one word answer when you ask about his day, the table is a place to give empathy.

Tempting as it is to fuss at my child for his part in the foolery, what he really needs is for his dad and I to stop and remember what it was like to have and be surrounded by a bunch of teens with spiking hormone and more opportunity for mischief all while struggling to figure out our place in the world.

Then he needs us to put the life lesson to the side long enough to say we can only imagine how tough his experience was because what he faces today is a whole lot more than we did at his age.

And then go on to say we can see why he’d be hurt, confused, frustrated and what have you, before asking how we can help.

We don’t always get it right, by the way, but that moment, over forkfuls of spaghetti, does a couple things: remind him he’s not alone in his very human experience and that we love and care for him.

But if everyone’s rushing kids around to different sports practices, grabbing take out on the way, leaving another child at home to be fed by Door Dash, night after night, when do we all connect and show we care?

So then we can’t be surprised by the hateful way kids treat each other in school and on social or the way adults see injustice and say nothing or worse, explain it away.

It’s easy to skip over the whole “do unto others” thing, when no one makes space to do unto you.

No one gives from an empty well, not you, not your husband, and not your children.

Loved people love. And heard people hear.

There’s no shortage of people running their mouths today. And if you’re like me, you tune many of them out for sanity’s sake.

But what if we’re tuning out people we should be listening to?

Is there a connection between the rise in hate crimes, the suicide rate, and social injustice and the eerily quiet dinner table in a majority of our homes?

I ask, not to condemn you. I’m not throwing stones from this glass house.

I ask because the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.

Our cruel culture is the elephant in the room. An enormous issue that won’t go anywhere unless each household does something where they are.

It’s time to hit the dinner table with our knife and fork and get to work on the elephant.

And speaking of elephants, they’re my favorite animal, so the visual of eating an elephant hurts my heart. But that’s the proverb somebody made up, it fits, so be it. Just don’t let the elephants know I said it!

Listen. This episode is my charge, reminding you of the importance you carry, not a chain to weigh you down with guilt.

You have access and authority like no one else in your child’s life.

Own it, brave Mama.

This week’s homework is a continuation of a theme.

Over the last few episodes, you’ve scheduled your weekly family dinners, you have your version of conversation starters to make sharing more inviting, and you’ve figured out how to use mealtime to practice social graces.

Now, listen to each other with empathetic ears.

My boys shuttered—my husband too- when I announced dinner time is a no phone zone. We leave them on the kitchen counter while we’re eating and 99% of the time we don’t respond to notifications during dinner.

Because that’s our time to reconnect.

And the kitchen table is the magnet that draws us from all over the house to see, listen to and care for each other. Every one and everything else can wait.

Did my boys roll their eyes when I initiated it. They did. And after I gave them that who are you rolling your eyes at look, I proceeded as planned despite their protest.

We’ve had priceless moments around our table.

Whether it’s a concern over workload, a change in friendship dynamics or an attack via social media, it’s the selah, the pause we take from the frenzy to decompress and to hear and feel what was shared.

And every once in a while, my children mention how many of their peers don’t eat meals with their families, how shocked those same kids are that my kids do, and how most of them find it intriguing.

Listen, your child thinks they have a reputation to uphold as the self-sufficient teen who needs no one.

You and I know nothing could be further from the truth.

But this is one of those moments I talked about them needing you, but in a different way.

Sometimes they need you to meet their need without them announcing the need and without you announcing you’re meeting it!

Ridiculous! I know.

But everyone needs empathy. They need a soft place to land when life hits hard. And the more they feel cared for, the more they’ll care about someone else.

We’re coming out of the hardest 18 months we’ve ever known. Empathy matters now more than ever.

And because I care about you, your heart to raise caring, resilient, successful children and your struggle to do so in a world so opposite of that, I invite you to connect with me.

If you need to vent or share your mom concerns with me in a private voice message, you’re welcome to do so on my website at vinelifefaith.com/podcast. I’d love to help you any way I can.

That URL is also where you join my email list.

That’s how I give you more tips and encouragement in between episodes and access to resources that empower you in your role as a mom.

Just head on over to vinelifefaith.com/podcast.

And if you’re having one of those days where you feel like you’re failing as a mom, you’re not for the very fact the thought occurred to you.

Motherhood is a journey that’s not a straight line.

Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, pray, connect with a supportive friend, and keep listening to this podcast.

Brighter days await you.

And remember, when it comes to you being the mother of your children, you are the woman for the job. Take care.

If this episode served you well today, go ahead and follow or subscribe so that you don’t miss out on future episodes. And share the podcast with your mom friends too because every mama can use a little help on her journey. For more from me, come visit my internet home, vinelifefaith.com.

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