Empathy connects people. It is a key factor in getting through our greatest struggles, as well as the smaller, but still very significant, everyday life difficulties. Empathy is simple, in its practice and delivery, but yet so powerful and meaningful to the receiver and to the giver. By showing it, you don’t solve or eliminate anyone’s problems; you don’t change events that have happened or that will occur. You don’t have to take any significant action or give anything up. Empathy costs nothing.
However, you do, for a moment, mentally and emotionally share the emotional burden and load that another person is experiencing. Your mind travels back in time to the many tough moments and struggles you’ve gone through yourself. Empathy takes you back; you relive those feelings again. You remember the emotions that engulfed you during the roadblocks, the grief, the loss, and the many difficulties you faced in your life. You feel for the person who is now coping with similar circumstances. In showing empathy, you go a step further and share comforting sentiments, reassurance, and validation, expressing that you understand and feel for the person. Empathy can be transmitted in seconds through a few simple words, a look of understanding into another person’s eyes, or a pat on the back that lets them know they are not alone.
How can people show compassion for others when they are feeling hopeless?
When a person is in a state of hopelessness, they often see no solutions or options regardless of what anyone may say. For this reason, empathy is the primary source of comfort for someone in despair. Rather than telling the person things they can’t envision or believe in the moment, such as “it will all be fine” or “it will get better soon,” it is more effective to show compassion by acknowledging the person’s pain. This is a critical middle ground that a hopeless person must reach before seeing a way out—before envisioning hope again. They must validate their own feelings as being true and your empathy aids in that process.
What positive (long or short-term) outcomes can come from expressing empathy towards others?
Empathy opens our eyes to the feelings and experiences of others. It allows us to remove our constant focus on ourselves and our own problems, which can lead to selfishness and ultimately, loneliness. Empathy also provides a means of immediate connection with other people, as well as more permanent bonds and relationships. When we serve as a source of support and comfort for others in their time of pain and struggle, others will fulfill that same role during our own time of need.
How can anyone show empathy when everyone else is hurting too?
These uncertain and difficult times have led to mass job loss, widespread financial difficulties, the closing of businesses, and so much pain and suffering as many grieve the death of loved ones. Loss is everywhere and has likely touched everyone to some degree. This is precisely the time when showing empathy becomes critical because sharing in your neighbor’s pain will not only uplift him or her, but it will comfort and soothe you, too. Selfishness and self-centeredness lead to a lack of gratitude for the blessings in your own life. However, when you connect with others, share in their burdens, and show compassion for their experiences, you are better able to see the beauty in life. You can acknowledge your many blessings in the midst of your struggles and the many strengths and abilities you still have despite losing so much. Empathy elicits an interplay of hope and strength to both the giver and the receiver. It reminds us that if we confront life struggles together, we can overcome the hardest moments in life and emerge more resilient, more courageous, and full of more hope than ever before.