Recently, my friend Judy suggested that I write an article on empathy. She shared her belief that “empathy is the natural step forward as the Ego gives way to a much more deserving higher power”. I agree with Judy and believe that the Ego is very threatened by our natural inclination to be empathetic. Let’s take a closer look at the word empathy and what I believe it means to be empathetic.
Many of us tend to confuse the word empathy with the word sympathy. They are similar sounding words with very different meanings. Empathy means that we understand what another is feeling because we have experienced it firsthand and can readily place ourselves in their shoes. Empathy is a very personal one on one experience. On the other hand, sympathy is comfort and assurance that is usually offered by someone who does not have an experiential understanding of what the other person is going through. Sympathy is often rendered via a 3rd party experience. “I can only imagine what you must be feeling because my dad went through the same type of experience 10 years ago” is an example of a very common expression of sympathy. Although the sympathizer is trying to be of comfort, it is not relational and therefore not empathetic. Our personal relationship with God is a one on one experience which explains why so many of us can find a profound sense of peace during times of adversity. To know God is to experience empathy in it’s purest form.
The Ego keeps us separate from God, empathy brings us closer.
Equality. Because I have walked in your shoes, I am familiar with what you are experiencing. Our communication will be deeper and I may find myself absorbing your pain as if it were my own. We share an emotional bond.
Morals. True empathy demands that our standards, beliefs and behaviors serve the greater good. We are counted on to stand up for those who crave our understanding, love and support. We speak our truth and take compassionate action.
Patience. Empathy requires patience and understanding. We don’t have a timetable.
Awareness. God has given each of us the power to heal. This awareness helps us find the right words, take the right actions and summon the strength to serve as a true intercessor.
Trials. Through our own life experiences we learn to relate to others on a more intimate level. Our trials and our breakthroughs often provide inspiration during someones darkest hour. In the realm of pain, our greatest comfort often derives from the guidance of those who have gone before us.
Humility. I am not able to practice empathy until I have mastered humility. Humility spells death to the Ego. It is no longer about me, it is about comforting you.
Yielding. When we are yielding we are not rigid or set in our expectations. We are able to go with the natural flow of life which is the energy of God. We are able to encourage others to embrace this God energy as they travel down their path to healing. Through our own trials we have learned that “what we resist will persist” and therefore it is imperative to let go, let God.
God is empathy, empathy is the language of God.
I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.