Empathy is feeling with other people. It’s hearing someone else’s story and feeling like you were also the main character in that story. It’s one of the things that show us the beauty of the human spirit.
You and I have a very powerful tool at our disposal: imagination. Our brains have the ability to create vivid images of events that we never actually experienced. And when we imagine, we can feel emotions as if the event we imagine were real. And our ability to imagine means that we can empathize more easily.
The experiences in the world are as plentiful and diverse as the people that fill the earth. It’s impossible that any one person could have experienced all that there is to experience in the world. But because of our ability to imagine, we can empathize with others even if our experiences are not identical. With your imagination, you can put on someone else’s shoes, follow through the steps of their journey and feel as they felt.
But empathy is just a way to feel joy and the sadness that isn’t your own. Why would anyone want to empathize with others?
Because empathy is connection.
Most of us can admit to having experienced loneliness at some point in our lives. We might have told ourselves, “Nobody cares about me. Nobody wants to pay attention to me. Am I not good enough? Is there something wrong with me?” Most of the time loneliness is just a sign that we’re trapped in our own concerns and worries and we’re disconnected. There are 7 billion people on Earth. Surely, you’re not alone.
With empathy you can escape from the prison of your own concerns and connect with the people around you. With empathy you can heal your own feelings of being disconnected. Empathy allows you to feel the joy and sadness of the people around you, to forget yourself for a moment and to live the life of another.
And if you allow yourself to empathize with the people around you, you can be a blessing to them. When someone is down and saddened, the only way you can truly lift them up is if you’re willing to empathize with them. Just like if somebody is trapped in a pit, the only way you can lift them up is if you’re willing to go down into the pit and free them. Allow yourself to feel the sadness that another is feeling and try to imagine what it must feel like to be in their shoes. That way you will more likely to say the right words to encourage and cheer them up. You will be more likely to not belittle their pain. And most importantly, you can tell them you understand them and that their feelings are justified, something everyone wants to hear at such times.
Even in happy times, you will be a blessing to people if you learn to empathize with them. People want to know that they’re correct to feel the way they feel. And you can show them this understanding in their happy times too. If someone comes to share their joy with you, allow yourself to be happy with them without any corrupting jealousy. That way you will be making their joy complete.
And as always, cheers to life!