Let's skip the pleasantries. Life is hard.
You blame your friends, you blame yourself, you blame society, and then you blame the world through the Internet. The blame becomes so wide-spread, that everyone you encounter is a horrible person, and you can't hold a civil conversation without entering into an argument or becoming upset with either yourself or the other person.
Then one day, you find yourself somewhere new. People there are kind, but they're each clearly struggling with something. While in conversation with them, you discover their hardships; financial, relational, situational, etc. Their life is hard, too.
You try to help one of them. You do your best to use what you have for their advantage. You give them advice, tell them an experience you had that was similar and what you did to fix it. You feel like you've done something good. Sort of. You're not really sure, but you feel proud of what you've done. You see the other person's life hasn't really changed, but you feel better because you were there for them. They hug you, and you leave.
Later, you go back to your daily routine, and you bump into an old friend. They ask you how you're doing, and you give 'em the ol':
"I'm good! I'm tired and I'm busy, but I'm hanging in there!"
They tell you,
"I used to be like that! If you just go to bed earlier and don't procrastinate, it seriously will help."
The conversation feels like a bad screenplay. Gee, what advice! That friend is the BEST. If only more people would speak to you with such inspiring dictation. The answers to all your problems seem so simple now. It's no wonder empathetic listening has become so rare.
The friend leaves, and you feel worse off than before.
Then it happens again.
You realize that this has been the norm for you and your colleagues, but you hadn't noticed until now. The blame you'd placed on the world becomes evident to you, and you feel guilty. You remember the new people you talked to who shared their hardship with you. You realize that when you gave them advice, you hadn't been listening to what they needed. They didn't need you to solve their problems and tell them what to do. They didn't need you to talk about your life, because they don't know you.
They needed you to listen, ask questions, and empathize with them.
You feel just like them. They've all got their own hardships, sure, but ultimately, they just want to know someone cares about them. They just want to feel like they matter.
You think about how when you were with your old friend, you just wanted to spend some time with them, but they left so soon.
You think about how the person to whom you'd offered advice had hugged you. You remember that people need love, be it through touch, verbal encouragement, quality time, gifts, or service, and each person needs it differently. The thoughts exhaust you.
The next day, you happen to see the old friend again, and you give them a big hug right away. They return it warmly until it becomes slightly awkward that you're still clinging to them. You break away, and the two of you cancel your appointments and catch up over coffee.
You spend the majority of the time listening to your friend talk about her troubles with her boyfriend and how her parents are pressuring her to either join the army or get a job at a real hospital instead of the assisted living center she's been at for the past 3 years. Throughout the conversation, though it feels strange to you, you make a point to give her high fives and other various moments of physical contact, because you remembered how much she likes being touched. After the conversation ends, she hugs you again and leaves. You realize that you had shared little to nothing about your own life, but had served the conversation to her needs. You feel fulfilled.
The next week, you return to the strange place you visited before. You do not see any of the same people, and are again filled with the same confusion as before. As you begin to talk to someone there, you learn through his broken English that he had to leave Ethiopia and his family behind, and he's been looking for a job for 3 months, but with as little education as he has, he hasn't been able to get one, since he can't even read the applications. You sit with him and begin to teach him the English alphabet. After some time, he thanks you immensely for your "of service action" and you part ways.
Your life continues. Hard.
You do not blame your friends. you do not blame yourself, you do not blame your society, and you do not blame the world and the Internet. You blame the devoid of empathy. Every time you talk to someone, you work to place yourself in their shoes. Every conversation works to serve them how they need serving. Every morning, you remind yourself to be aware, and to care.
Every day, someone, at some point, returns the favor.
You realize that life is meant to be served. Your life is a service to others, and someone else's life as a service to you. You remember a story about a man who served all of humanity with his life. You forget about blame, and replace it with empathy. You empathize with your friends, with your society, and with the world. You live.
Actor, Director, Creator, Dork