Why empathy is easy when you could afford to take a side

As I grow older, I realised that in many situations, things were never as clear cut as what they seem to be when I was younger. These situations were not like whether you should choose coffee over tea, where it was just a matter of preference. These situations involve great pain in either party, where the cause of the pain was due to expectations, not where moral or ethics were involved. 

I kind of miss the times when I felt that I could take sides easily in any situation, like in the movies, where there must be a villain and a hero, when if you are not on the hero’s side, you are the villain.

Recently I have had to face two situations where I could not take sides in two conflicting parties, because of the special circumstances both parties were in. Strange enough both situations had a common theme. Both involved expectations from their parents. I could not stay out of these two situations because of the close proximity of both situations to me.

If I were to review the expectations of these parents, I would wholeheartedly agree that their expectations were not high. They just wanted their kids to somehow conform to how society functions, to sometimes think about their folks and tell them that they are fine. If I were to see from the child’s (not a kid) point of view, there could be some reasons why they behaved in a manner that disappointed their parents, and they may already knew it. But I was not able to directly tell it to their faces that what they did was not living up to their parent’s expectations because of the same close proximity.

The bottom line for both situations was that both of the children were healthy and did not do anything harmful to themselves or the society. I am not the parent, but I had to tell the parents to re-align their expectations, which I understood, is  hard to do because…. was it too high an expectation? Well it was not. But it was also not an option to blame it all on the child, because we have no idea what that child was going through.

I admit that I do not have a positive outlook on children meeting expectations of their parents. The reason was because for whatever reasons, genetic or upbringing, it is not unusual for the kid’s and parent’s ambitions to not be aligned. It was also not the first time I see parents getting sad over the fact that their kids did not want to continue their legacy. But if you were to take a cold look, from a stranger’s point of view, the children’s choice was not such a big issue after all. It definitely looks different from the parents’ point of view.

Another thing that I experienced first hand, was on how parent’s expectations, even though not forced on to me, were projected onto me. For a 18 year old teen back then, to go against my mom’s advice was really hard. She advised me not to go into finance because I had been a science student all the while. With hindsight, you will think that it was no big deal that a science student could change path into finance. But my mom’s worries were valid because after all I have not done a single double entry in my life before that, and I am venturing into something unknown. We could laugh at her worries after seeing how I have turned out fine taking the path less known, but I could understand her worries now when I think from her point of view.

Teens and children are mentally not as strong as adults. A few comments from their strongly opinionated parents could potentially dampen their passions. Parents could always say that this is for their own good, but I have seen many situations where this did not turn out to be the best for the children. Sure the children lived a normal life now, but would there be a better life, one which the child would be happier if they chosen their passion instead?

I realised that the more empathetic I became with everyone’s situations, the less empathy I have in the end. Not because I was a cold person who did not care about other people’s adversities, but on the contrary, because I tried to understand everyone’s situations and I had problems taking a side, for my own sanity’s sake, I had to choose not to take sides. Sometimes it is best to not have expectations because you can’t control how people behave, even though you already decided to give up hoping.

I wished that there was an easier way to deal with the dilemmas in life.


Author: Li

This is a blog about the journey with my friend - Lupus, 500 days and counting after I was diagnosed. After I passed the initial stage of acceptance and moving on, it has been well so far. Whilst I have a full time job, I am also a writer for hire and could write just about anything. Contact me if you see anything that you like!

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