Can you really understand someone in terms of what she’s feeling, what behaviours she may adopt or what perceptions of the world she might have? To push the limits of human empathy, it may be helpful to consciously ignore everything you think you know about yourself and the ones around you and get curious again.
If we could all do that, the world would be a place where people lived in harmony, understanding each other’s inner worlds.
In reality, it’s more challenging to understand another human being on a deeper level, even those close to us! You may think that the longer you’ve known someone, the more evidence you have collected about what kind of a person she is. The historical facts show that she is decent and reliable.
Moreover, with the help of your empathic skills, you can feel how she feels and together you feel as one. But when you disapprove of her behaviour and get disappointed, you may feel that there is a world apart between you and her. Two close people turn into strangers.
You may not be aware of the fact that the disagreement regarding a particular behaviour can be rooted in moral values, cultural beliefs and other social conditioning that we are raised with and affects what we like and how we perceive the world.
Therefore, if we truly want to understand others, we need to become aware of our personal conditioning. For example, in Western cultures, when someone dies, it can be considered disrespectful if the close family of the departed one are wearing other colour than black. In Asian cultures, people wear white at funerals, which symbolises passing into heaven.
Now, what would happen if at a Western funeral, the wife of the deceased man wore red? Probably the rest of the close family would stop talking to her.
Getting rid of our conditioning may be a mission close to impossible for some of us. It may require years of meditation and spiritual search, which is not everyone’s cup of tea.
Alternatively, we can try to understand other people needs and desires and how they change over time. We do have the empathic skills that can be practiced to ask the appropriate questions about what others like and how they see the world. Once we are informed in this respect, we can learn to accept them without any judgement.
Maybe the widow wanted to express through red the intensity of her love for her dead husband? Or that she will still love him beyond death?
Above all, what counts the most is to look beyond behaviour and feel the true nature of a person. If the widow has a truly compassionate and loving nature, which reflected in the relationships with the rest of the family, then maybe the family members will focus on her affection and be less judgemental about her red garment.
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