-Robert Louis Stevenson
I find this quote true is so many ways. We learn empathy through our own experiences. Our triumphs and our failures, our joys and our sorrows all help us to understand others going through similar situations. In many ways the human condition is universal. This is a good thing.
The flip side is that we often judge others by our own standards, not taking into account their different experiences, upbringing, culture and beliefs In many ways, each individual is unique. This can cause a lot of misunderstanding.
Both of these interpretations has a caveat: story. Story is a vicarious experience we enter into. One that changes and enriches us. One that can make us more empathetic without having experienced a similar event, and broaden our outlook to avoid the misunderstandings that arise from judging others according to our own upbringing. That's why you'll see my logo, "Promoting understanding through story" on the pages of my website.
Another interpretation is that we see in others what we see in ourselves. Have you had someone accuse you of something - lying, jealousy, whatever - and known that they were somewhat deceitful, or jealous, themselves and were assuming everyone else was like them? The criticism we have of others is often an insight into our own flaws.
Today's writing prompt is threefold: Think of a time when an experience you had helped you to understand what someone else was going through, and to help them. Or, think of a time when you made an assumption about someone else that turned out to be wrong. Or, think of a time you criticized someone - was it a true reflection of them, or a veiled reflection of yourself?