When one thinks about empathy, one thinks of sharing a moment in time, both emotional and cognitive with another person. One thinks of feeling what the other person feels, and what the other person sees. And on the whole, this would be a moderately accurate description for any who have not had the empathic experience on such a regular basis, as to make it, second nature to them. But what is left out of this description are the warnings and ethics of this gift. Because with any gift, psychic or otherwise, there comes great responsibility, not just to themselves, but also to others.
This is accomplished by developing your own set of ethics, based on the morals instilled into you by your culture, religion, and family. All of these play key rolls in helping you to develop your own ethics, as an Empath.
But there is another level of Ethics, that is universal to us all. They are not dependent on what prejudices tint your perspective. The most important ethics can be broken down into a few words: temperance, humility, limits, and detachment.
1. If you choose to work, as an Empath, with other people, then the responsibility for the use of that gift, is yours alone.
2. People are not toys, and their lives are not a fun game for you to play with, mess with, or manipulate to your hearts content. It should be mentioned that there is no harm in seeing the experiences of other people as a vicarious learning tool. This helps bring balance to the empathic endeavor. Using others experiences, that you receive vicariously, can enable you to better understand those you will help in the future, as it broadens the scope of your own personal perspective. This must be tempered with altruism and humility, though, for you hold in your hands a multitude of other people's experiences.
3. Empathy must never be used to manipulate, abuse or belittle others. Empathy has the power to heal and the power to destroy, at a very basic human level because it is directed at the emotional base of a person, instead of at its more logical cogantive side. Knowing and understanding the way people work, on an emotional level, can give an Empath a false sense of empowerment, if not tempered with humility. And if the Empath is not secure in his/her own self esteem and self worth, it can blind them, giving them an unrealistic sense of pride, which can foster a false sense of entitlement. This coupled with the sense of empowerment, are a dangerous combination. It is the makings of an Emotional Manipulator, or in this case an Empathic Manipulator.
4. An Empath's best friend is the ability to detach, particularly when working with others in an empathic capacity. It seems like an irony, I know. An Empath is a feeler, and not one who detaches from those they are helping.But in this, an Empath must set and know their limit, so that when and if the emotional burden of another becomes to great, they have the ability to pull away. This does not make the act of loving and the act of detaching a paradox. This is not an act of hatred, anger or upset toward another person. It is an essential act of self preservation that must be understood, honed, and utilized, given the very overwhelming nature of possessing an Empathic gift.
5. The only responsibility you bear, as an Empath, is that you choose to take unto yourself. No one can force that on to you. Each person is responsible for the situations they find themselves in, the people they choose to associate with, and the way they choose to live their lives. Empaths are not super humans. They are not omnipotent, in that they can always foresee the future (though prophetic dreams and premonitions can sometimes be a part of the gift). We choose who we help, we choose our limits, we choose what we take on ourselves, all while having our own lives to live. This is true for anyone, but especially Empaths (though some might argue it to the contrary).
6. An Empath should never attempt to force their own feelings, or how they believe the other person should feel, upon another person. It degrades the very act of offering empathy to others, their experiences, and their emotions. This one is a hard one sometimes, because we as Empaths have the dual perspective of seeing what the other person sees and feels, as well as that of an outside perspective that is free from the bindings of being in the situation. So we, in our misguided pride, believe we have the answer, because we are adept at problem solving for others. But most Empaths have the ability to know when they should not offer to much, or when it would impede the growth of the other person to try to solve their problems for them, instead of simply offering solace and a friendly ear. Its learning to listen to that skill, that Empaths find the hardest to do. This particular skill arrises only when the Empath trusts in themselves, their gift, and their purpose for being there in that single moment. Until then, there is always room for doubt, thus always room for making mistakes about how to approach another and how much help is needed/desired/necessary to be offered up.
This is only the beginnings of a working model of Empathic Ethics, from which, one can begin to expand into their own personal set of ethics. People are complex beings, so no one set of ethics is going to be the same as another person's might.