Since I was 12-years old, I’ve lifted weights. It’s still a habit of mine 38-years later. Over the years, my objectives have shifted. Early on, I was focused on core strength for playing football. After college, I was more interested in muscle mass and density and contemplated body-building. As a husband, father and professional, I balance maintaining and preserving muscle with long-term health and fitness.
In addition to my physical workouts this week, I also worked out in my mind gym. My mind gym is where I spend the first fifteen minutes and last fifteen minutes of my day, every day. It’s also where I go when needed throughout the day to clear and calm my mind to think about something important.
One of the muscles strengthened in my mind gym is my empathy muscle. Frankly, it’s the most important muscle these days, and I wish I would have started training it when I was 12. Hey, better late than never.
Why do I assert it’s the most important muscle? Because it helps me bring about unity with other people, no matter what. It helps me to prioritize what I have in common with them, thereby prioritizing our likenesses over our differences. I feel an extreme sense of ownership to that end. The burden is on me to:
- Seek to stand in their shoes by understanding their experiences
- Aim to get in their mind by understanding their viewpoint
- Strive to put myself in their place by imaging what they are feeling
When I can do this, we’re able to form unity in our minds. We can still be unique, but have an eye towards the big picture by sharing a vision. That’s what being like-minded is about.
When I can do this, how we treat and respond to each other changes. We see each other as a person and not just someone we want to argue with. Our convictions and beliefs don’t change with the conversation, however we start to see the other person in a new light and maybe grasp why they feel and believe what they do.
Seeking, aiming and striving to understand someone’s viewpoint doesn’t mean we’re weak-minded. It actually reveals the strength of our empathy muscle. What would our world be like if a critical-mass of people had strong empathy muscles? I pray for the day when we reach that tipping point.