Empathy is something that often gets confused with sympathy. To empathize with someone is to relate to be able to relate to their emotional experiences. For instance, every single time the State Farm commercial comes on where the guy says he’s never having kids, he’s never moving to the suburbs, he’s never driving that, he’s never letting go… I start to cry. Like legit tears will come down my cheeks. I’m probably overly emotional anyway but this commercial is just something I can relate to. I have empathy towards that guy. I get it. I’m not there trying to “fix” his problems or talk him into or out of anything, I’m just there listening and getting a full understanding of what he’s saying.
You’d think that after having gone through something it would make you more likely to be empathetic, but as I’ve discovered, people will actually show less compassion for you – empathize less. If someone in your life messes up, you might not have sympathy for them but you can empathize with them because of their circumstances. You can say, “I’m sorry but you won’t get my sympathy” when your child makes a mistake, but you can be empathetic regarding the feelings for how the mistake made them feel afterwards. Or say you have a child who is being, or has been bullied. You had been bullied as a child too. You can now empathize with your child because you have shared that negative feeling.
I am finding that the older I get, I am more empathetic towards others. It isn’t like walking in someone else’s shoes, but I think to myself, if that were happening to me, personally, how would I feel and then I’d respond accordingly. I wouldn’t respond to try to fix their problem or give them advice, but just perhaps say, “friend, I hear you”.
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Tomorrows word is Family.