From where does our empathy come?
Often, when I express my empathy to someone, I suddenly become aware of the ‘space’ from where my feelings come. I can recognize, unmistakably, whether I am deeply moved by the other person’s plight or I am doing just a lip service.
Sorry to hear the news.
Get well soon.
Wish you/her/him a speedy recovery.
Don’t worry… everything will be alright.
Is there anything I can do?
Any help, please let me know.
Anything for you… Any time.
How are you? How is your mom/dad/son/daughter/grandma/grandpa etc?
How’s your business going on?
How is your job going on?
You will get a new job… Keep faith.
I will pray for you.
I have expressed of these statements at some times or the other, to some one or the other. At times, I have been just superficial and the words have just come mechanically, without a deep connect… More through a formality. Yes, just a lip service.
But, many times, I have spoken those words from the bottom of my heart… I have felt for the other person’s plight… deeply empathetic… I have felt a strong urge in me to reach out, share the sorrow or pain of the other person.
And, because of this awareness, I am, also, able to sense the nature of empathy coming to me from other people. I can make out whether they are truly feeling for my plight or are doing just a lip service.
A month ago, I met an old friend in one of the hospitals when I had been there for a certain cheek-up. I learnt that his mother and father both were admitted in this hospital for treatment of Swine Flu. Then, I lost touch. Yesterday, someone told me about the demise of my friend’s parents (both of them) within a time gap of one week!
“Can’t believe it!” Yes, these were my instant words!
I am yet to call this old friend of mine… I do not know how to express my sorrow to him.
But, am I feeling for my friend, deeply?
Yes, I do.
On my way to the bank, this morning, I had two situations when I had to express my empathy. First one was a lady, who I was seeing after almost two months. I knew that her father-in-law was very ill. So, when I saw this lady, I asked, spontaneously, “Ma’am, how is your father-in-law?”
“Sir, he expired!” the lady replied gracefully.
“I am very sorry, ma’am… I am very, very sorry,” I tried to empathize feeling g a little guilty, too.
All that the lady gave me, in response, was a silent, dignified smile on her face, which said, “It’s alright, sir. Thank you for your concern.”
“Was I truly concerned?”
Next, it was a student of mine, who seemed to be in a hurry. “What happened, dear?” I teased, “Seem to be too busy.”
“Yes sir, I am rushing to the hospital,” my student managed to convey to me, “Dad is in I.C.U.!”
“I am sorry beta,” I took no time to express my feelings, “Is he improving?”
I pressed my student’s hand for a moment and managed to say, “Beta, I am praying for dad.”
“Thank you, sir,” my student continued to rush towards the hospital.
Where was my empathy coming from – heart or lips?
We may not be able to solve others’ problems, and we may not be able to bear their burdens. But, the least that we all can do is: Feel for their plight deeply and express our empathy as sincerely as possible…
I think, the awareness of the quality of our empathy is part of our spirituality!
Pic.: Chetna Shetty