This may sound uncaring but one of the hardest emotions for me to master is compassion. The ability to be sympathetic of someone else’s distress and the desire to alleviate it.
I have no problem coming to the aid of someone in true need. In fact, in emergencies I am amazed at my ability to take charge, triage the situation and get everything under control. I can flip a switch, stuff my own emotions aside and get the job done, but once panic is averted and the urgency has past, I am done. My bed side manner sucks.
It’s not that I don’t have any empathy. I have a great capacity to feel and in fact I am too empathetic and that is where the crutch of the problems lies. Being compassionate creates an emotional over load for me. I would even go so far as calling myself an Empath, I easily sense other’s emotions. Happy, sad, fear, anger, I sense it all and absorb it like a sponge.
Watching the news on T.V. can be an emotional rollercoaster for me. Hallmark card commercial’s are brutal. I have never made it thru any wedding, funeral, or graduation without the ugly cry. So not developing compassion in my emotion arsenal is my only defense against sensitivity overload.
Can you imagine what a wreck I would be, the personality cocktail of being a people pleaser, an Empath and then the compassionate need to take others pain away as well? Reserve the padded room and have the people in white coats on standby.
Some might argue that a people pleaser is all about compassion, that wanting to please another is the same as being sympathetic to their needs. That’s not it at all, people pleasing stems from a need for outside validation of your own self-worth. It has nothing to do with the person you are attempting to please and everything to do with not having the self-confidence to seek and trust ones own sense of worth. People pleasing is an addiction that can never be satisfied. The more you up the ante in the drive to please, the weaker your sense of self becomes. What’s compassionate about that?
A compassionate person has a strong sense of self and uses it as a barometer to judge another’s suffering. Empathy is understanding how another person feels but compassion drives the desire to help.
Those who can, do. Those that can’t, teach.
Does my lack of compassion make me a bad person? Not at all. A good teacher understands her students frustrations but also knows that the pupil needs to experience both success and failure in order to truly learn.
Empathetic people make great teachers, counsellors and mentors because they understand how to guide people to learn for themselves. Compassionate people are gifted with the ability to help when lack of knowledge is not the problem but circumstances or the lack of opportunity. A self aware person who is blessed with both empathy and compassion has the tools to become a great humanitarian. Those are the Mother Theresa’s and the Ghandi’s of the world.
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, that’s what make us unique. Understanding what they are and embracing them develops your self-worth.
It’s like getting a new power tool and reading the owners manual to understand how to use it properly. When you know what the limitations of the tool is there is less chance of abusing it to the point of irreversible damage. You wouldn’t use a kitchen knife to cut down a tree so if you don’t have the right emotional tools in your personal arsenal you will only damage the ones you do have by using them for the wrong purpose.
That is why I have no problem admitting to my lack of compassion. I feel for you, I really do and I know enough about myself to know I will only go so far to help you out. Compassion is not a gift I was given but I was given many other that are just a worthy. I have enough self awareness and integrity to admit that with enough moral fiber to point you in the direction of someone with enough compassion who can help you.
Want to know what an Empath is? Think you might be one? Check out these sites below.