Friday, November 9, 2012


This is Part 3 about Empathy- the last and final post in this series. You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

How many times have you really opened up to someone? Divulged your deepest, most raw feelings with someone? Allowed that person to share your most vulnerable of times? And then, when you've let your guard down and feel safe, that person shuts you down and says,

"Well, you think you've got it bad?! Let me tell you something waaaaaay worse..."

In that moment you feel so small, so stupid.

It's like saying,

Oh yeah, well I'll see your "pornography addiction" and raise you an "online love-affair"


I'll see your "never been married at 35" and raise you a "single mom."


This piercing phenomenon of "Trumping" keeps us from having genuine empathy.

When we use this tactic, we are in essence communicating to other people that their 'story' is nothing. What does this do? It makes people feel like they are nothing. This leads to no good because then, the hurting person feeds their own personal shame. Now they'll think that maybe their story doesn't warrant empathy? Or maybe it's not as bad as they think it is? Or that they should just buck up and deal with it?

Then silence takes over... and then the shame is fueled- which is one of the most prevalent and destructive forces in many of our lives.

But what we tend to forget is that regardless of what the actual trial is (or how severe it is in comparison to yours or other's you've heard), they almost always stem from the same hurtful place- powerlessness and disconnection.

What I have learned, after much trial and error in ALL of this, is that it's all the same hurt.

Last night I was talking to a dear friend of mine about exactly this and she said,

"We all have a heart. Everyone of us. And we all have that space that aches, no matter how big or small the trial. We all hurt somewhere."

I think that this rings true. So instead of following up a tough conversation with,

"Well... let me tell you something that will make you feel better about your situation..."

Follow it up with something that quietly says "I heard you. This is not small. You are not small."

There have been so many times when I feel like my story can 'trump' others and so, I slap it on them. Even though I might feel better momentarily because I have come in 'first place' so to speak, it's not a reward to taunt around. In fact, it's something that extinguishes your ability to empathize. And who wants to spend their time and resources and energy comparing and out-doing hardships and oppression anyway? It's not a healthy place to be  because not only does it keep you from connecting with others, it keeps you wallowing in your own self-pity.

I know this is a heavy topic... but I really do think that it is SO important. Too often we shrug our shoulders at the hardships of other's because we just don't know what to say or how to act. Hopefully this is a stepping stone to help us all become more empathetic, connected and compassionate.

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend!


**Information came from I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn't) by Brene Brown, and my own thoughts, too.

Image Credit


  1. I like to call those people "Stan" 's excuse my language for a moment.. (shit that anin't nothing) And those people drive me crazy! Life is not a competition, but some people feel the need to compete in every thing in life. And in some very inappropriate times too.

  2. I love this - what a great way to think about it. I know I've had people respond to me that way and I know how it has made me feel. But I love that part about it all being the same hurt.

  3. Growing up in my family when we would do this to each other we would just say to the offending person, "bigger & better" - meaning you aren't really listening to me you are trying to "one up me" and then the other person would usually realize what they were doing. It's easy to call each other out on it as family members, but more difficult with associates, etc.... I've really enjoyed this little series on empathy - I feel like I've learned a lot.

  4. I call those people one-uppers and I've definitely known a few of them. :) I always love reading your posts Jacy! You always have such good perspectives!

  5. Ugh, I hate to admit this, but I do this with my husband all the time. "Well, you think your day was bad; let me tell you about mine." I know I need to stop when I'm doing it, but I keep doing it. Ack! Thanks for the reminder. :)


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