Sam Radford

March 11, 2022

Empathy is always a strength

I wrote last week about consuming news sanely. But it’s hard, isn’t it? There’s a war going on!

It’s all well and good for me to decide to only check in with the news once or twice a day. But what about those women and children getting attacked in Ukraine by Russian soldiers? They can’t view the news a couple of times each day in order to protect their mental health. 

It feels so unfair. 

I was chatting with an American friend, Lindsay, yesterday and she was saying how she feels guilty for shedding tears over what’s happening.

I feel guilty for feeling sad because, unlike the Ukrainians, I’m in a safe, warm home. Who am I to shed tears when I’m not the one being bombed?

Even now, I’m sat in a warm cafe, well fed, and safe, writing these words. It’s hard not to reflect on how unfair it is that I am in the position I am while so many millions of Ukrainians are suffering indescribable atrocities.

At the same time, talking with Lindsay brought it home to me that empathy is always a strength.

Better to feel the pain of others than become cold to it; better to feel guilty about our privilege than blasé about it. 

Much as it hurts, if we’re feeling anguish over what’s happening in the Ukraine, we should, if nothing else, be grateful for having that empathy. Grateful for the awareness of our privilege, luck, status…whatever. Better to be awake and aware than asleep and blind.

All that said, reflecting back on what I wrote last week, I still think it is okay—vital even—to use our privilege wisely. It doesn’t help anyone to spend our days doom-scrolling. Yes, let’s find an avenue to engage productively in supporting the Ukrainian people. Yes, let's stay aware. But let’s not destroy our own mental health by over-engaging with news that we can do little to nothing about.

—Sam

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