We have a primal virtue of empathy that feeds our need to be involved in each other’s emotions, to connect and to share. Most times when someone says, “I know how you feel” it’s met with disdain because we consider our experiences alien for those who haven’t lived them; they are not. Human emotion is a wholesome experience. Our situations may vary but the raw emotional end of it all is the same and it should be a comfort that we’re not so different.
We all experience so many little things from the point of an empath. My most recent was at my grandfather's funeral when the urge to cry slithered, I turned to writing what I felt to spare the family more tears. I wrote about my loss and everything that we feel when death visits. But it wasn't my own after I read it. It was mine in body, but in soul, it was how my grandma must've felt. I dissected her sobs as she hugged his old cloths and the new shoes he didn't get to wear. Because you see; her sorrow was greater than ours was, it was almost as big and heavy as that urge to cry. So it was hers, not mine. Whatever feeling I was supposed to feel doubled itself, twice.
That's the strength empathy holds; experiences multiply, we become smoothly more human just by existing in that moment. It removes bigotry against the misjudged, the misunderstood and the shunned. It's raw and vivid, unlike our own emotions, which are so often confusing.
When we feel the connectivity and energy that can come from family to strangers, it sends a sense of solidarity through its becoming nature. It's the reason we protest causes overseas for people we have never met and situations we never lived, it's why we cry watching a movie or reading a novel. Second hand emotion holds the same power in changing hearts as direct emotions.
Not everything can be empathized but therein lies the sharing, if we don’t let others know they won’t get a chance to carry, with us, our burden as if it is theirs. However, empathy doesn’t always exist in its most gentle form, it shouldn't be excessed because sometimes we’re like sponges, absorbing all shades of emotion and, in turn, shunning out our own. It’s one of the things where ‘selfishness’ is a necessity. Self-care and being kind to ourselves is the balance we need.
In the end, all we have to remember is that the hearts and minds of others are worth investing in, they’re worth the kindness and the understanding, always. Empathy is important because only when we sense the pain and joy of the other, do we truly know ourselves.
Sura Smadi is a part time medical student, full time reader. She believes in empathy's power in changing hearts and eliminating prejudices, to a clinical degree. She hopes to become a forensic physician someday.