Mid-Navaratri Reflection: Empathy, Limits, and Prayer for Others (Part I – Boundaries)

Comment: Photo by Soumik Dey on Unsplash

I just finished watching the recent remake of A Star is Born. Perhaps telling of my background and age, I never saw the previous versions, and I did not entirely feel up to binge-watching to compare. Many have done comparative essays and reviews, perhaps with even a more eloquent thing to say than me. When I watched it, I will say that a tiny part of me might have appreciated a content warning.

Though, please do not mistake me, I have no regrets whatsoever! My sentiment is far more a reflection of just how well the movie managed to not only hit me, but stab me in the feels. Trust me when I say I do not really need a content warning. I only merely noticed how hard some elements of the movie was for me. Call it age, call it something else, but I never really teared up at movies while growing up. These past few years have been different, perhaps even strange in that way. Without spoiling too much about the movie, I will say this: it made me reflect much on empathy, our own limits as human beings, and what I could do to honor my own limits while helping others.

There are many terrible things going on out there, as we know. Our society is undergoing serious polarization and tension, and it has become so in such a way that even I feel like I am less a person for not taking a stand or at least doing something or another. Some of my friends overseas have expressed how it is not just the United States dealing with this, but other countries are, as well. My heart goes out to all negatively impacted.

Despite all of this, there is one bittersweet blessing I can say comes of this, a divine gift masked by the chaos. In my own case, I am, for better or worse, learning more about myself; about my own limits. There were many things I let by before. Now knowing what I do now, I have imposed myself new boundaries. As much as I try practicing tolerance, patience, compassion, and understanding, I also must practice self-care while also finding what ways I can convey the message: this is okay (and, not okay).

In these times, it can be very difficult to cultivate empathy, patience, and compassion. On one hand, we must honor our right to be angry, sad, or to despair at what we find antithetical to our most core, important values. At the same time, former CIA operative Amaryllis Fox once said the wise words of: “Listen to your enemy.” Admittedly, I do not know much about her other than the words spoken, and the wisdom in them. I try to take the good lessons where I can.

And, speaking of core values: I have distanced myself from people who have become toxic to where they have utterly lost insight or care for how they impact others. Doing this has hurt me more than I can express, as I cannot help but consider their experiences and what has led them to be the way they are now. Importantly, some of them were friends once upon a time, even if I was targeted by their behavior. I really value friendship and loyalty, and I am not sure if I have broken faith, or if I am simply withdrawing from people who either had changed for the worse; or, these are people I have realized are not the people I befriended. The ‘what if’ is loud as ever, yet I also have to remind myself that I had set myself boundaries and must respect that. If things shift in the future and are meant to be, perhaps the conversation will be revisited. Otherwise, I cannot wait for it to happen.

I constantly endeavor now to consider how to better cultivate empathy, patience, and compassion while also not letting it all become enabling for things I consider anathema. It is not an easy path to walk, and I am certainly not the same person I was years ago as I do this. The more I learn about the process, the more I feel like I am changing (and hopefully for the better!). One of my goals over the years was to become more assertive while still retaining politeness. Again, it has been a process of developing better boundaries; of better enforcing boundaries.

In the journey, I also realize that there will be cases where the healthy and assertive approach does not work, and where I have to give berth. I find these cases difficult for I always prefer to ‘talk things out’ before it coming down to the inevitable. Honesty with compassion is something I also considerably value, and so I feel like a hypocrite when it comes down to the point where I feel I have to step back, to walk away. Yet, when talking before has not worked, I feel it is my only option.

And sometimes, the only way to love someone is to set boundaries, even if that means stepping back to give that distance and let a person or people stew in their space. All the while, I pray they will find their way – for the better. I cannot always know what battle one is dealing with, after all.

So, in the middle of Navaratri, I find myself praying for the well-being of anyone who ends up in opposition to me on any matter.


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