Definition: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present.
My heart breaks for the lack of empathy in our world today. I believe empathy is taught and our self-centered society is missing out on compassion, sensitivity to others, caring for someone other than oneself and understanding anything outside the realm of our own thinking.
Narcissism is growing and we are creating more narcissists than empaths. This can make for a very scary and difficult world. I don’t know the solution other than loving everyone the best we can. This is not an easy task! I’m reading a wonderful book, Everybody Always, by Bob Goff – and I highly recommend it. The whole purpose of this book is to consider loving everyone, even the ones that are difficult to love (actually they need it the most). I will admit, I skipped straight to the paragraph about difficult people and tried to find a sentence that could confirm disliking them and maybe even a sentence that said it’s ok to be mean when someone is mean to you. Hint: you will not find that in this book. Instead I found reassurance that love is seen in many different ways and it is accepted in many different forms so we have to adapt. We may even find our purpose in showing love in all the unfamiliar places.
I put that in perspective and in a divorce situation with minor children, the multiple kinds of love we have to portray is overwhelming. We have the love for each other that is amazing because we have overcome the walls that we each had due to previous hurt and betrayal. We have the love for our biological children which is unconditional and so strong it’s hard to describe in words. We have the love for each other’s children which is also unconditional, but it’s a process; learning and growing to be special in their worlds and it’s delicate. We have the love for our exes which is a different kind of love and honestly the most difficult to navigate – this is where empathy comes into play. If you don’t have it, your world will be nothing but anger and chaos.
That different kind of love and empathy is a reminder each day to care regardless of the situation. My husbands ex is not an empath, in my experience, and she has been through plenty of hurt of her own. I can love her and not like some of the things she says or does. I know from experience we are a product of our environment. I know very little about her struggles as we are not close, but I do know that when she is rude, condescending and hateful, she is hurting. I know she was on her own at 16, I know she is not close with family and I know that has to have an impact on her ability to be a mother and her expectations for her own daughter that is the same age. I know she has endured 3 divorces and after experiencing 1, I cannot imagine the pain. I know the hateful way she talks to my husband means there is a lot of hurt remaining there. My husband is a very compassionate man and an empath. He cares deeply And his heart is huge…she knows that about him. His ability to be her emotional support changed when our relationship grew and that is difficult for her. I believe she views this as abandonment and with her history of struggles with relationships, I completely understand. He sees the affects and lack of empathy with their daughter and her environment is a direct reflection of that. I’m not sure if there is a solution, but I can show compassion and only try to understand the entire situation.
My step-daughter is also not an empath. This is a delicate relationship and she struggles daily. She is lacking in developmental skills for her age and when brought together with our family that is so different, she has to feel inadequate or different. We try every day to ensure she knows she is loved, to know we are here to provide for her and ensure inclusion regardless of her attempts to avoid it. When she speaks negatively to her father, it is very difficult for me to understand, but I have to remember this is a learned and allowed behavior for years. She experienced divorce at 5yrs of age and trauma of losing her brother to a fatal disease at 7yrs. This hurt at such a young age is unimaginable to me. I know she is lost, I know she lacks confidence and I know she begs for attention. She spends a lot of time alone, she doesn’t have many close friends and she is lacking in social skills. She sees love differently so we try multiple ways of showing it to adapt to her needs. Again, this is a delicate balance because while showing love, we are trying to correct some of the behaviors which are not appealing and not going to benefit her in her future. To a 16-year-old, this is rude, overbearing and such a contrast of her other household which has to be confusing. She is constantly going through change… 3 schools this year, 2 moves and the addition of 2 step-sisters and a stepmother. She is about to move again, another school and the expectation to be included into a new family with more step-siblings and another father figure. Unconditional love, attention and understanding is what she needs most and we will provide it as much as we can in the short time we get to spend with her.
My ex is not an empath and I’ve had many years to understand that. I worked diligently with our girls to ensure that they are and know how to show love and compassion for others. I have asked them to be kind even when others are not kind to them because we should know that if someone is mean, someone was mean to them. My husband and I have a mutual respect for my ex because he is the father of our girls and while we disagree on many things, we agree that education is important, rules are important, manners are expected and bad behavior will not be tolerated. My ex suffers from a terrible disease that he has not accepted the responsibility to change, but I loved him through it all this time and me, our girls and my husband will continue to do so with boundaries.
My ex-husbands wife is an empath from what I know. She is very caring and loving towards my ex and our girls. I love that about her and even though we disagree sometimes, we are the same in that way and I can appreciate her giving heart.
Everyone’s situation is different. Love isn’t easy and loving the difficult is necessary. Our world is full of hate and our purpose is to fill it back up with love. Boundaries are always important and can be held even when we step out of our comfort zone and put ourselves in someone else’s shoes to see things through their eyes. Showing love and compassion will heal hurt. It may not always be recognized, but it could be the one thing someone needs from you.
Disclaimer: Loving in difficult times with difficult people is something I strive for, but I have failed many times. I get angry, I feel attacked, I don’t know how to make sense of some things and I have responded negatively when I feel that someone is trying to hurt me or those that I love. I’m human, defense is what I know and training my thoughts and reactions to be loving always is a daily struggle. I won’t always be successful, but I am committed to showing love. Empathy is what I know, I’m so thankful that it is part of me and my prayer is that it grows a little more inside of each of us.