This weekend my Son was at a birthday party, trampolining and he hurt himself, not badly, but enough that he cried and had to sit down and ice his leg for a bit. Two of the boys, including the birthday boy where concerned for him and stayed with him until he felt better. Two tender hearts, those ones. They understood my Son's pain, they could relate, they had empathy and compassion. It was a completely natutal interaction between three young friends.
We all these virtues to varying degrees and can relate to this story. Some of us wear our hearts on our sleeve to the degree that we put others before ourselves and suffer and others have been incredibly wounded and become hardenend to life and humanity. And yet, when we experience something like a hurt child, a wounded or mistreated animal or a catastrophic event we all react in some way.
Clearly, there is a balance to be had as compassion can easily tip the scales into martyrdom and victimization and empathy can become sympathy and the wounded healer. Compassion is the ability to have understanding, even when someone's choices are not the best ones. We may even say that we don't understand, but that we will withhold judgment as we don't know the story in someones past. What compassion does not do is continue to enable another to cause harm, its really the Mother energy, firm,yet kind.. It does not enable co-dependence. It continues to love another and holds others aloft inspite of their actions because of the understanding that we are each on a journey with many twists and turns.
Empathy is the ability to become aware of another person's pain or joy and thus leads to compassion. It is an intuitive skill that some have in abundance and others not so much. Those that have it in abundamce tend to be affected by everything around them, the world can be a pretty painful place. These are the bleeding hearts, the wounded healers and they suffer, often times unnecessarily. In order to avoid taking on the world's pain it's important to know that we cannot be responsible for everyone's pain, we can feel it, have understanding, be compassionate and uplifting. However, to wallow in pain does not serve the healer or the soul experiencing the pain. True empathy is a cultivated skill and it takes strong boundaries. In my profession, I seek to find opportunities for empowerment for my clients when they come to me for healing work. Often, this is allowing them their process and KNOWING that they will find their way and become stronger for it. I cannot give them all the answers, that would take away their learning, although I will point in the direction of Light.
So, how does this all look in everyday life? Well, for me it means that I just step back, take myself and my perceptions out of the picture and let my need for judgment go. I accept that there is a story behind the action, one I might be aware of or not. People have so many triggers and attachments. I am understanding of this, I am also firm in how I wish to be treated. Not in a stamp my feet way, but in a this doesn't work for me kind of way. Thus I take appropriate, considered action, sometimes it is a withdrawal and sometimes it is a conversation with another. At no time do I flavor my response to suit what I think another will think of me. We do this ALL the time. It is always fear based.
If you have struggled with imbalances I recommend that you start by examining your boundaries, your ideas about how you expect others to be (honestly, we have zero control here) and let go of expectations. I also recommend a cord cutting, to cut away all those negative emotional ties, they will deplete you lickety split. Here's a link to read more about what a cord cutting is http://www.mysticsjourney.com/emotional-cord-cutting.html
It's OK to say "No." It's OK to say I'm putting myself first, after all we need the oxygen mask first in order to be effective for those around us.