Monday, June 21, 2010

Confidence & Humility: A Lesson In Compassionate Empathy

Confidence and humility....two words that do not appear to be synonymous, much less have anything to do with Empathy or Empaths.  But let's delve a little deeper into this subject and see what we find.

First lets look at some definitions.  And then we'll move on to the deeper discussion.


  1. feeling or consciousness of one's powers or of reliance on one's circumstances
  2. faith or belief that one will act in a right, proper, or effective way

  1. the quality or state of being humble

  1. not proud or haughty : not arrogant or assertive
  2. reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference or submission
  1. the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it
  2. 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

The Symmetry Of Confidence And Humility In Empathy

Empathy, as we've noted other places, is broken down into 3 different types of Empathy: Cognitive, Emotional, and Compassionate.
  • Cognitive Empathy: we recognize what another person is feeling
  • Emotional Empathy: we actually feel what the person is feeling
  • Compassionate Empathy: we want to help the person deal with their situation and emotions

We've also noted that at the Compassionate Empathy level one tends to express something called Empathic Concern.

Empathic concern refers to other-oriented emotions elicited by and congruent with the perceived welfare of someone in need. These other-oriented emotions include feelings of tenderness, sympathy, compassion, soft-heartedness, and the like. Empathic concern is often and wrongly confused with empathy.

To empathize is to respond to another's perceived emotional state by experiencing feeling of a similar sort. Empathic concern or sympathy not only include empathizing, but also entails having a positive regard or a non-fleeting concern for the other person.

Human beings are strongly motivated to be connected to others. In humans and other higher mammals, an impulse to care for offspring is almost certainly genetically hard-wired, although modifiable by circumstance.

And while I know this is repetitive from other blogs, we need this information, yet again, to establish an understanding of what is to come.

Now, when we reach the level of Compassionate Empathy, there are two traits that tend to exert themselves: confidence and humility.  Confidence in the fact that, even if you can do nothing else, you can at least be there for the person who is suffering.  What we do and to what extent, no matter how large or how small, is of less concern than having the confidence to do it in that split second of time we use to decide whether to reach out or not.  And humility in being humbled in the face of another person's suffering enough to care, enough to reach out a hand, enough to step beyond the boundaries of our egocentric worlds and step into someone else's willingly.

When we speak of confidence, we do not speak of arrogance or condescension.  Nor do we speak of pity.  It is a sharing, in that moment, of another person's pain that humbles you enough to wish to reach out to them and help.  Sometimes that is nothing more than a willing ear.  Sometimes it's advice and guidance.  And sometimes it's something much more.  But despite what it is, it is given because you momentarily share in that person's suffering.

Now the reason we do not speak about condescension, arrogance, or pity is because these things tend to set one person above another, as though they are looking down from a higher place than the other person.  And Empathy, Compassionate Empathy in particular, can only truly be offered when one is standing on equal footing with the other person.

In saying that, it doesn't mean you have to have the same job, the same personality, the same issues, or the same life.  It simply says that you, for that small amount of time, lay all of those things that make you different aside, so that you can stand next to the other person on equal footing.  Because despite all the differences that separate you from the other person, you both also have a great deal in common.

We all know what pain is.  We have all suffered, in our own ways.  And those things can help you understand another person's suffering, as much as motivate you to reach out to them to begin with.

It takes confidence to reach out a hand to someone else.  It takes humility to set aside your issues enough to reach out that hand.  And that's a HUGE part of Compassionate Empathy.

Think about it. ^_^

To Know You

I touch your inner spirit,
to know your pain for it is so clear,
of that of a shattered soul,
who believes that no one holds them dear.

I feel your deepest heart,
flowing currents of emotion,
deep within a shadowland,
born out of your lonesome devotion.

I reach inside your mind of logic,
born to cover rising tides of pain,
to see memories of sorrows past,
drenched in tearful silent refrain.

I look into your sleepless eyes,
stained black by endless nights,
of solemn slumber's repudiation,
which steals away your inner light.

I see you there before me,
bound in time's gentle repose,
of endless waking dreams,
of a single blood red rose.

I know your face so well,
for I have seen it many times,
upon the facade of ego's mask,
born out of illusionary rhymes.

So come now friend,
and walk at my side,
beyond the ocean
of tears that you cried,
to journey forth
in struggle and strife,
to a bountiful future,
and a well lived life.

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