Holding back who you are is hiding. Holding back what you have is hesitation. Hiding and hesitation keep you from Wisdom. -- Rabbi Rami Sharpio, The Divine Feminine in Biblical Literature
If you have not already read part one of my empath story, you might want to do so before you continue to read this blog post. You can find part one here: https://www.creationswellness.com/post/my-softness-my-earthquakes-being-an-empath
In all honesty, it has taken me a few beats to finish part two of this empath blog series. At first, I felt like my fingers were on fire for this topic. I typed out about one and half pages worth of my thoughts around the concepts that we, as a culture, have created when it comes to empathy. Although, because it is a confusing topic, I was forced to pause and really collect my thoughts slowly and with discernment. Basically, God instructed, "Before you go off on a tangent, consider all directions!"
And boy, were there a lot of directions to consider!
I believe that this is a confusing topic because we often hear about empathy in contradicting ways, thus is the reality of living in duality. I believe that duality is really our bridge to living more whole-istically. And so, I wish to explore the many contradicting viewpoints of empathy and those that we call "empaths" in our cultural storylines these days.
On one end, we heavily hear about those who are without empathy. Some have named this empty-handed, without feelings or love experience as "narcissism." In contrast to without, we speak so highly about having empathy as the catalyst for worldwide change needed in order to make injustices righted and inequalities equalized. We use narcissism as an example of what empathy is not because like most ideas and concepts in this world, we always need a "contrast" to see the bigger picture. Narcissism seems to be the best contrast to empathy.
I am an avid advocate of the idea that empathy can change the world and that narcissism will not. Just last night, in our meditation class, we were talking about how respect and empathy go hand and hand. You cannot have one without the other. This is to say, it is a lot easier for you to find empathy for someone if you can respect that they have suffered in their own unique way (which may be different from your own) but if you are only thinking about yourself, how will you know respect or empathy at all?
Sounds like empathy is a great asset to have and express then, yeah?
Yet, on the other end of this spectrum, we hear about the pitfalls of empathy. We hear about those who are with "too much empathy." We place these deeply sensitive souls into fear-based programs by claiming that they need to constantly be protecting their energy and essentially, we point a finger at these big-hearted souls and say things like, "You got yourself here because you were too nice. Now, you need to take your niceness away!"
We tell them to have harsher boundaries and to cancel people out immediately. We tell them that not everyone has good intentions for them and essentially, we create a cultural storyline for the empath that they must live in paranoia, bitterness, and judgement in order to survive.
We teach empaths to judge a book by it's "cover" --the energetic field around a person's body, one thing they said, one thing they did, etc.,-- before we teach the empath to understand what they actually mean or meant. We teach the empath to read the cover but never open the book.
How do we learn to read each other's stories instead of bypassing the covers?
We learn to listen.
And if, I believe by listening, you find that this person's intentions are still not aligned to your way of peace, then by all means, I believe you should have empathy for yourself and walk away from the situation at hand, speak your peace or whatever it may be which leads me to the next confusing topic on empathy...
Some believe that self-empathy is the only choice that matters if the empathetic person is being abused whether physically, mentally, emotionally, or sexually by the narcissist. I one-hundred percent agree with that statement--abuse in any form is never okay. In addition, some people believe that too much self-empathy can actually lead us back into narcissism because we only care about ourselves and never give anyone a chance, and so, here we are again...in the duality of it all...
I suffice to say that the topic of empathy is indeed a very confusing one for me--and maybe for you too. I am starting to see that empathy is frankly not all black and white but it is not necessarily all gray either. For myself, I believe that in order to truly understand empathy as it relates to me, I must first understand my relationship to my purpose. For me, my relationship to my purpose is really found within my partnership and devotion to God/Source/Creation...
I am, and have always been, the type of person who will see your soul before I see your personality. Call it a choice of sight or just the eyes that God gave me to see, but it is my honest truth and I can no longer hide from this truth. To hide from my truth is to ignore Wisdom's way for me.
This way of viewing the world and others (through the soul first) has led to many highs and many lows; both confusing and contradicting one another. Essentially, I have internally shamed myself various times on account of being "too nice." This is where the hesitation happens. This is where I pause and compare who I genuinely am, empathetic, to what society thinks I am, "A push-over, a walk-all-over-her kind of gal, completely ignorant, not discerning enough!"
Internalizing this untruth had turned my softness into an unbearable, hard stone. I had felt that hard solid nonmetallic mineral build up as tension in my own pelvis and shoulders and a heaviness in my own heart and this is when I decided, "Something isn't right here. This harshness doesn't feel like me."
To put this into context, one time I became so angry at an ex-boyfriend that I threw all of his belongings in the trash and blocked him immediately on Facebook because I believed, through some Instagram post about energy vampires, that he was truly "out to get me" and drain all of my energy. One day later, I was unblocking him and telling him the honest truth which went something like this...
"So, I kind of threw your belongings in the garbage and then blocked you on Facebook, yesterday over a stupid Instagram post about energy vampires. I still think that what we have is unhealthy and we need space and that we probably should not even follow each other's social medias...but I don't think I need to block you from knowing that I exist and I don't believe you need me to blocked from yours either. This is all to say that I still care about your existence, I just don't think I can fully interact with it right now."
To my surprise, he responded without offense to my honesty. Instead, he actually agreed with me and thus, the energy that I was holding onto that "he was out to get me" turned into, "We had a human moment."
When I sit with God, I receive nothing but praise from Him for the willingness to see beyond someone's suffering and to ask for their soul to be revealed instead. I feel a softness in my body and lightness in my heart. I still send people who are no longer in my present moment love; even those who have hurt me gravely. My deepest desire is to sit with the soul and when I sit with your soul, I can not help but want to be kind to you. I cannot help but want to hold unconditional space for you; even if you are timid or bare your teeth at me, all I want to do is show you that there is no harm here and no judgement. But I haven't always been perceived that way because I internalized my empathy as bad and thought I needed to set more boundaries. I became too harsh and judgmental over silly things with people I genuinely loved.
I believe that the dog is loyal to the owner NOT because it perceives loyalty as ownership/authority...I believe the dog is loyal to the owner because it perceives loyalty as a devotion to loving another unconditionally, despite the apparent differences. When you think about it, DOG spelled backwards is GOD. ( I loved that thought when I first heard it myself so I secretly just wanted to find a place to share that!)
It is only when the dog has been treated without love for too long that it begins to bare it's teeth and hide in corners. This, too, has been my story once and therefore, I had to learn where my source of unconditional love could always flow from. The truth is that I had to learn that I could not always rely on a human source of unconditional love but I could always rely on God, on Jesus, the divine, the spirit...for me, it is not about glorifying a religious thing but rather coming back to a neutral place; I guess I could say, a place without human bias.
When I come back into my neutral place of receiving empathy (through God), I see that who I am is not wrong but hesitating about who I am creates the opposite of empathy for myself and for others. Empathy does not hold love back and therefore, empathy is simplicity. It has no layers to uncover. When I hide who I am, I make it more complicated for me to understand myself and thus, I make it more complicated for others to understand who I am.
Holding back nothing of who you are is honesty. Holding back nothing of what you have is simplicity. Honesty and simplicity are the ways to Wisdom. When you find Her, hold her tightly. Do not let Her go, but surrender yourself to Her in perfect rest and joy. You find rest because you are no longer pretending to be what you are not. You find joy because you are no longer hoarding what you have.- Rabbi Rami Sharpio
And so, I choose to no longer hoard what I have (unconditional love). Additionally, there have been some other things about myself that I have been hoarding that are honestly weird and strange, and highly misunderstood but alas, it is what I have! Weird is what I have and I believe it is truly good for something! It is what God and I are creating together on behalf of something greater than I could ever imagine. Who am I to bail on how weird that offer sounds? I might not always know the direction but when I am with Wisdom and not hiding, I am at least with the essence of Wisdom's way which is through the unconditional heart.
Plain and simple, I've discovered (for now) that to know empathy is to know how to listen for the way.
To listen for the way is to invite Wisdom into your room.
To invite Wisdom's way in is to see that Her way is neither the narrow hallway or the spacious room but the space right before they meet--in the middle.
"You do not frighten or intimidate, but stand ready to act in accord with the needs of the moment. You are aware of what is, without forcing people to be aware of you. You do not give in order to receive, or withhold in order to exploit. You give because giving is called for you, you withhold because doing otherwise would cause more suffering. The key is always to know what the moment requires and to act in accord with it." -Rabbi Rami Sharpio
Come to Her with all you are,
and keep Her ways with all you have,
Search and seek, and She will be found,
and when you hold Her, do not let Her go,
For in this is perfect rest and joy.
-Wisdom of Jesus Ben Sirach 6:26-28