We do not have to look too long or too far to realise that generally, empathy has gone for a “holiday”. Every day, the media is over flowing with examples of unkindness, bullying, and lack of concern towards others. Particularly worrying is the trend for social media to be used as a platform to inflict ridicule and pain upon people, especially those who may be already suffering from a lack of self-esteem.
Empathy is defined by the Oxford Dictionaries as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another”.
“Loss of empathy might well be the most enduring and deep-cutting scar of all, the silent blade of an unseen enemy, tearing at our hearts and stealing more than our strength. Stealing our will, for what are we without empathy? What manner of joy might we find in our lives if we cannot understand the joys and pains of those around us, if we cannot share in a greater community?”
― R.A. Salvatore, The Silent Blade
Empathy is universal – it can be practised at anytime, anywhere. It may mean putting our own needs aside for a time to focus on another person. The following quote is a reminder of the RU OK (Are you OK?) programme here in Australia which asks us to approach those people whether in our family, friendship groups or even strangers, if they appear to be struggling with life. The truth is, that none of us really know how much someone else is hurting. We could be standing right beside someone who is completely broken and have no idea. Be kind always.
“True empathy is not about waiting to understand another person; it is about proactively seeking to do so. It takes effort to give another person your full time and attention; to ask others how they are feeling and if they coping well with things. And don’t overlook those closest to you. Never take anyone for granted. Avoid being too preoccupied to sit down and talk with your children, partners and colleagues.”
― Nigel Cumberland, 100 Things Successful People Do: Little Exercises for Successful Living
The expression of empathy costs us nothing but our time. The lessons we have learned in our own lives are often very helpful when it comes to relating to others who may be experiencing similar challenges.
“We are born with the innate capacity to express empathy. Experiencing our own cuts and bruises, encountering our own difficulties and disappointments, expands our cognitive world and rouses the universal desire to understand and comfort other people in pain.”
― Kilroy J. Oldster, Dead Toad Scrolls
However, we must remember that empathy involves understanding and sharing. It is too easy to rush in where angels fear to tread and offer concrete solutions to another’s problems. We have to realise that we do not have all the answers (even to our own challenges) and it would not be appropriate for us to lessen another’s ability to find their own answers.
We should not confuse empathy with sympathy. Sympathy means “feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune” and if prolonged, can block forward movement in life. It may contribute to a victim mentality that becomes a habitual behaviour in a person’s life, where they relive the same situation over and over again. It is too easy to get caught up in the drama/story and be blinded to the opportunities and gifts available.
If we give in to this compulsion or are coerced into assisting the person to create the solution to the situation, we may be interfering with their opportunity for spiritual growth and understanding.
“Sometimes all a person wants is an empathetic ear; all he or she needs is to talk it out. Just offering a listening ear and an understanding heart for his or her suffering can be a big comfort.”
― Roy T. Bennett
If we look back into our own lives we may remember times when our obstacles seemed insurmountable, but with the kindness and prayers of others we were able to find our way through. It was always important for us to go through the process A to Z, so that we could find the solutions that worked for us. Indeed, the empathy of others was the bridge that carried us over.
“Unless we understand how the twists and turns of life operate to make us, we cannot comprehend who and what we are. Without self-awareness, we are blind to registering the intertexture of other people’s inner life. Gracefully enduring personal hardships expands our minds to extend empathy for other people..….self-understanding is an essential step in loving the entire world.”
― Kilroy J. Oldster, Dead Toad Scrolls
Learning to be kind and gentle with ourselves, and not judging ourselves so harshly allows us to feel empathy for others.
“On my journey from the fantastical to the practical, spirituality has gone from being a mystical experience to something very ordinary and a daily experience. Many don’t want this, instead they prefer spiritual grandeur, and I believe that is what keeps enlightenment at bay. We want big revelations of complexity that validates our perceptions of the divine………….. but that is exactly the simplicity of it all. Our spiritual life is our ordinary life and it is much grounded in every day experience. For me, it is the daily practice of kindness, mindfulness, happiness, empathy and peace.”
― Alaric Hutchinson
We are so excited and looking forward to our Level 4 Workshop on the Big Island, Hawaii. We will be learning new techniques such as stretching, more trigger points and pre-natal massage. There will also be time for play and tours to local sacred places. We will enjoy showing the students around Hawaii and experiencing the magical energy of Hilo. Not long now until we leave, and then the big count-down commences for the 2017 Level 4 trip to Hawaii.
Sending you all Aloha and Blessings.
“Ua ola loko i ke aloha”
Love gives life within.