It's impossible for me to sit in the darkness with another unless I've dared to sit in the darkness of my own life. Sitting long enough to feel it, to accept it as a part of the process in life's griefs, and something for which I need not be afraid. I must be willing to sit until I am no longer tempted to run.
Until the darkness becomes acceptable and is embraced as a normal part of every life, I cannot handle the darkness that comes with others' misery. Especially, I believe, if that misery is far different than mine, requiring me to imagine myself being in that exact place.
It's much easier, therefore, to empathize with those who have suffered the same sort of pain that I may feel than it is to cross the bridge so that I understand the suffering that seems almost impossible for me to imagine.
Perhaps we need to think of a new serenity prayer:
"God give me the courage to imagine the pain of people far from me--culturally, geographically, and socially.
Grant me the compassion to sit quietly, to walk with them, and perhaps to even take bold action on their behalf."