I was surprised recently when someone whom I know is in financial trouble himself emailed me with news of another person’s financial and personal struggles. He said he thought I’d be ‘interested’, as the person and I had previously had some negative interchanges. What the hell?

Truly, it struck me as ghoulish, almost akin to dancing on someone’s grave, to receive this attempted encouragement to delight in someone else’s downfall. No thanks.

I saw this road safety sign on the Desert Road on my way to be with family, and agreed with the sentiment, and also the point of view …

Encouraging empathy as a road safety message (pic by Peter Aranyi)

The longer I live, the more I learn that EMPATHY is the factor that sets people apart as truly human. What does it take for us to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before we condemn them?

Sometimes, (many times?) the kindest thing to do in any situation is tell the truth. i.e. Not to make excuses or pardon or ‘cover’ someone else’s sin or offence, but to find a way to speak the truth — even the harsh, judgemental truth — with compassion.

So as we count down to 2011, here’s to the whistle-blowers who overcame their squeamishness and fear, who took their courage in their hands, who overcame their desire to be ‘liked’ (i.e. to avoid criticism) to give their gifts in 2010.

And let’s hear it for those who can reprove without condemnation, and oppose without totally losing their empathy for those whose behaviour they judge.