Freedom and a healthy nervous system are synonymous; we cannot have one without the other.
Sympathy, in its best sense, is the ability to take another’s point of view. Not to mourn because he mourns; not to feel injured because he feels injured. There are times when we cannot agree with a friend in the necessity for mourning or feeling injured; but we can understand the cause of his disturbance, and see clearly that his suffering is quite reasonable, from his own point of view. One cannot blame a man for being color-blind; but by thoroughly understanding and sympathizing with the fact that red must be green as he sees it, one can help him to bring his mental retina to a more normal state, until every color is taken at its proper value.
This broader sort of sympathy enables us to serve others much more truly.
If we feel at one with a man who is suffering from a supposed injury which may be entirely his own fault, we are doing all in our power to confirm him in his mistake, and his impression of martyrdom is increased and protracted in proportion. But if, with a genuine comprehension of his point of view, however unreal it may be in itself, we do our best to see his trouble in an unprejudiced light, that is sympathy indeed; for our real sympathy is with the man himself, cleared from his selfish fog. What is called our sympathy with his point of view is more a matter of understanding. The sympathy which takes the man for all in all, and includes the comprehension of his prejudices, will enable us to hold our tongues with regard to his prejudiced view until he sees for himself or comes to us for advice.
It is interesting to notice how this sympathy with another enables us to understand and forgive one from whom we have received an injury. His point of view taken, his animosity against us seems to follow as a matter of course; then no time or force need be wasted on resentment.
Again, you cannot blame a man for being blind, even though his blindness may be absolutely and entirely selfish, and you the sufferer in consequence.
It often follows that the endeavor to get a clear understanding of another’s view brings to notice many mistaken ideas of our own, and thus enables us to gain a better standpoint It certainly helps us to enduring patience; whereas a positive refusal to regard the prejudices of another is rasping to our own nerves, and helps to fix him in whatever contraction may have possessed him.
There can be no doubt that this open sympathy is one of the better phases of our human intercourse most to be desired. It requires a clear head and a warm heart to understand the prejudices of a friend or an enemy, and to sympathize with his capabilities enough to help him to clearer mental vision.
Often, to be sure, there are two points of view, both equally true. But they generally converge into one, and that one is more easily found through not disputing our own with another’s. Through sympathy with him we are enabled to see the right on both sides, and reach the central point.