“A satisfied man doesn’t understand the feelings of a hungry man.” – African proverb
It is no secret that the world has gotten greedier. All around us unethical behaviour is on the rise and being touted as the norm. These attitudes, which usually start as ‘innocent’ fudges induced by our desires to please the people around us – especially our leaders, then evolve into full-fledged practices that become the norm.
An example is how it has become the norm to rain insults on our political opponents, and to concoct allegations against them – all the name of winning power. A negative attitude has become the norm. Perhaps it is reason we choose to downplay the ethical breaches of those we support when they are in power. We struggle to do the right things after having engaged in the wrongs for so long.
Many of us find it easier to dismiss this lack of care or concern as apathy. And to add insult, we use the adage “each one for him/herself, God for us all” to support this failing. We justify our neglect of others because the happenings do not directly affect us. We do so hoping that we will never be found wanting on any day. How sadistic can we be? This is akin to living the illusion of a safe haven when life is smooth-sailing for us.
Interestingly, we know that we are never free from being in need. Life happens. But what happens if within our illusion we fall out of favour, or the milk stops flowing into our mouths? Where do we run to if the illusion of our self-reliance – that is, security we forge for ourselves – is breached or melts away as has happened a lot in the past for so many others?
We need to cultivate an appreciation that what defines our rights and wrongs are the beliefs we cultivate about what we deserve and what we do not. And these beliefs stem from the stories we create and the ones we tell ourselves about ourselves.
Our stories are the prime ways we have of opening ourselves and going beyond ourselves. The themes of our stories reveal how we define our worth and what we are worthy or unworthy of – from the small luxuries of comfort foods to the grandest luxury of a passionate creative calling or a large and possible love – and shape our understanding of ourselves.
When our stories are devoid of an awareness of the feelings of others, we more or less lose our sensitivity of reality. And in that emotionless mood, we lose our manners as well. Thus, when we are not polite, when we miscommunicate, when we appear arrogant among other poor attitudes, it is because we have lost our awareness of the sensitivity of the feelings of others.
We are emotional beings, and what we feel in the moment has more meaning for us than than the aftermath of that feeling. That is why when we lose our sensitivity of the feelings of others, we cannot make any meaningful contribution in their lives.
History has taught us that many leaders become authoritarian when their inner-circles fail to point out their unawareness of the state of their followers’ feelings. In the same vein, we know people become sycophants because they focus more on the immediate rewards of staying in the good books of the influential.
Many of us often forget that living is not a future event. It is a present activity only. It is one of the most elemental truths of our existence, and one of those most difficult to put into practice – because many of us are habitually inclined to think about the future rather than the present. Whether we are in a meeting, at a business social mixer, in church, at a restaurant, on a trip or sitting around a table, our awareness of the feelings of others in that moment makes or breaks the relationship.
We all have at one incident or another had a taste of our feelings being brushed aside in the moment. If you care to remember how undervalued you felt, and how you secretly hoped that whatever was being done in the particular moment becomes a flop, you will understand the importance of factoring-in the feelings of people in the moment.
The attitude of becoming unaware of the feelings of others stems from taking decisions that are motivated by desiring to secure the greatest portion of the cake to the detriment of others. During such times, we consciously eliminate how others are feeling or will feel. And when we focus on getting all the pleasure for ourselves, we lose count of the pain we inflict on others.
In fact, in that groove many of us do not even appreciate the interdependency of our humanity. All we think about is what will accrue to us. We forget that as long as people are negatively affected by our gains, we cannot holistically enjoy the fruit we have plucked. Rather, we will always be watching our backs – spending the bulk of our gains on security. It is like planning to be happy but being without the wherewithal to guarantee it. You will end up floundering. Let us therefore consciously become sensitive to how others feel in the moment…
Kodwo Brumpon is an author, a life coach and a philanthropist who inspires individuals, groups and organisations to think and feel that which is true by helping them positively respond to that which is beautiful while nudging them to let goodness govern their actions.
Comments, suggestions and requests should be sent to him at [email protected]