Throughout everything I’ve experienced in my life, few things have been more transformative than empathy. Empathy is the ability to put yourself in other people’s shoes, to see something from their point of view and to understand what they’re experiencing because you have either experienced or felt the same way before.
Whether it was what I like to call “empty empathy,” genuine empathy or an absence of empathy altogether, they have all proven to be serious game changers that have taught me, humbled me and added so much unapologetic joy and gratitude to my once lackluster (depressing, unlucky, insecure, OCD insane, people pleasing), existence.
Empty Empathy (aka, empathetic bankruptcy)
“Empty Empathy” is a term that I just made up (surprise surprise), that has happened to me a lot and yes, I’m super guilty of engaging in empty empathy in the past. Empty empathy was a big factor in what kept me in emotionally unavailable relationships and friendsh*ts for waayyyy too long.
Basically, empty empathy happens when someone gives off the vibe of being empathetic (sends you sweet messages “just because,” is thoughtful, being the first to watch your story and snap chatting you all the right things all the time, considerate, tagging you in cute pics on Insta, on their “A game,” etc.), so that they can ultimately get what they want out of you because they’re a user.
Genuine Empathy means genuine connection. Genuine empathy is about sharing in another person’s pain, experiences and feelings. It’s about getting down in the mud with them and saying through your actions, “I speak your language.” It’s about creating meaning and making a connection.
Empathy benefits you by allowing you to step out of your own world, your own issues, your own ego and your own head so that you can see something from another person’s view without advising, judging or bringing up your own pain – no matter how similar it may be to theirs. Genuine empathy is the foundation of gratitude and joy – it’s connection; it’s meaning.
Empathy is not about sympathy at all and it’s definitely not about assuming how someone feels.
It’s about relating to their particular position. Being able to genuinely empathize does not mean having to fix other people’s problems or heal them. It also doesn’t mean that you need to take on the problems and pain of others as your own. It’s not about thinking that you can (or have to) “rescue” someone. It’s about being there for someone while allowing them to remain in the driver’s seat. It’s affirming and mirroring their strength until they feel it again.
Genuine empathy says: “I know this is painful, I understand. I’m here for you. I feel your anguish. I see it exactly from where you stand. I speak your language. I have those battle scars too. I’m not going anywhere.” Empathy has a heartbeat.
Sympathy and compassion are two-dimensional in comparison to the light that empathy is.
What happens when there is an absence of Empathy?
The reason that I always say to make a dignified exit from an emotionally unavailable relationship, is because in these relationships, there is ALWAYS a lack of empathy and a relationship without empathy is a plane without an wings… or an engine… or jet fuel.
If you’re in a relationship with someone that’s empathetically bankrupt, you will never have a mutual, healthy relationship. Empathy is what keeps you together, appreciative, understanding and capable of respect and realness.
Remember – you don’t need to go through someone’s specific situation to know how painful it can be.
Be kind, always. Don’t be afraid to show your vulnerability. Be there for others not to fix, help or heal them, but just to be the beautiful light that you are; the light that you’ve always been.
For 2016, let’s all get on a light dimmer diet. I’m in. Who’s with me?