Forward Motion, Empathy, and Impact

If we can learn to see what we accomplish in the midst of a struggle, we can find the strength and confidence to keep moving.

We find ourselves, at times, in situations that are less than ideal; be it a momentary discomfort of completing undesirable tasks, or a stage of life that is constantly calling you to a sense of duty or obligation. Likewise, we will also be taken into dire situations outside of our choosing; with the only choice being how to proceed.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.

“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”   J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

I love this excerpt, because every one of us has been here. Not literally journeying to Mordor to destroy the ring of power because the fate of the world is in our hands; but potentially left standing in disarray because life has taken a turn for the worst. We have sat across the table from friends and family struggling with death, addiction, divorce, abuse, and the list goes on; and the conversation turns to “I wish it need not happen in my lifetime”; yet here we are. We can not always change our environment, or the stage of life that we are in; but we can choose how we will move forward.

We can choose what impact we will leave in this life.

Great stories are wrought with adversity. Great stories take you through the struggles. Heroes do not arise out of a state of Utopia, they rise from necessity. We can only run away from purpose for so long. The choice between apathy and empathy is always before us, and each path shapes our heart. If I am being honest, empathy is an attribute that I need to build upon in my life. I have a tendency to avoid discomfort or the pain that comes with empathy; therefore, I lean towards apathy at times. Though, I would still say that I am more so an empathetic person than an apathetic person; at least, that is the hope.

The word apathy in itself is harsh, or it hits you in a certain way when you hear it or read it. If we label someone as apathetic, there are negative connotations that come along with it. There is danger in labeling someone, or ourselves, because labels come with a lot of extra baggage. For example, apathy comes with the following baggage: callous, cold, and emotionless. Who would associate with those words? Also, we are in danger of possibly becoming or remaining apathetic if we choose to only identify the term in those words.

I choose to break down this idea of apathy into words, because I believe that in the words we find understanding, and in the words we can begin to see a path. Another word that I believe better describes the true nature of what we are up against with apathy is the word passive. All of us can say that we have been passive at times, and associating apathy in terms of passiveness creates a smaller focused picture of what to work on. Passivity puts our choices into the hands of others. Passivity in times of struggle   can be dangerous because we are left to the flow of the situation instead of choosing to steer that ship ourselves.

To choose what impact we will have in this life, we have to do just that…choose. To find victory in struggle, we need perspective; we need to be able to take that snapshot of our situation and place it against the bigger picture.  

If we choose to care, if we are able to see our impact on others through our tough times or momentary troubles, and if we can choose to be intentional rather than passive; then perhaps we can find victory in the struggle. This shift towards forward motion may begin with something as seemingly minute as changing our mindset or perspective. We are actually meant to grow, develop, and live a life of impact; and empathy may be the key to endure. Choosing compassion, or choosing to put ourselves into someone else’s shoes, may give us the perspective we need to find victories in the midst of struggles.

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