Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Choice Of Empathy; The Choice Of Love

What is love? There are many definitions of love, of course. But in this case we are looking for a more universal type of definition, so we will not focus specifically on the romantic aspects of this topic. So for our purposes this definition of Love will do: To have a feeling of love for; to regard with affection or good will; as, to love one's children and friends; to love one's country; to love one's God.

Now lets look at what an Empath is. There are many definitions, but the most basic definition is simply this: a person who has an acute or highly developed sense of empathy. And Empathy, as defined by one websites glossary is: The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this.

To truly understand what an Empath is, which is important to this particular discussion so bear with me here, we must retool this just a bit. An Empath is someone with an acute or highly developed sense of empathy, which simply put, means they are people who are highly sensitive to the emotions and emotional states of others. This does not mean that they will share empathy with another person, even if they are sensitive, because the offering of empathy is a conscious choice, where as, being highly sensitive is a state of being ~ which is a struggle at the best of times to maintain, much less control.

But I digress, to understand this discussion you must first understand the differences between an Empath and the gift of empathy. And you must have a universal definition of love, that isn't limited by close ties and romantic relationships.

So now that we understand that there are those that do and those that don't, and some that want to but can't....we can move on to the real point of this blog.


Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
~~Chinese Proverb
Now that we see that Empaths don't have the corner on the market of altruism, it can be said that every person is capable of it, that is offering love and empathy to others, even if they choose to turn a blind eye.

What's interesting about the quote above is that it sets giving into categories, and holds one up as better than the other. And while, in the long run, it speaks to a truth of patience and teaching which helps the person develop independence, it also speaks to something else. It lessens the value of the act of offering a man food for the day, which incidentally might be what sustains him until he can stand on his own through learning to fish.

And what that says is that each act of love, empathy, and kindness has value, whether it is long term or short term value. Each has an important place with its own value, and should not be compared. Because if you think about it, on the road to learning to fish, you have to eat in order to survive.

Moving away from the quote, its the same thing with acts of love and shows of empathy toward others. No one can be all things to all people. So we do what we can, where and when we are able. And that's a powerful thing in and of itself.

And it doesn't have to begin with strangers for it to be love and empathy or for it to be altruistic. Nor does it have to be a large offering for it to be an offer of support. Offer a smile to your partner. Offer a hug to your child. Say hello as you pass someone on the street. Hold a door open for someone. And appreciate the beauty and power of those small and seemingly random things, because they all play a pivotal part and have ripple effects we aren't aware of.

That being said, you don't have to be a martyr, or give all of yourself, to another person or to a cause, in order to make a difference. You just have to be you. The choice to give or not to give, to empathize or not to empathize, to love or not to up to you. And the choice of how much you give, is also up to you. ^_^

So here is something to think about....

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