Tag Archives: Empathy

AWAKENING TO KINDNESS

“This is my simple religion.  There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy.  Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”  Dalai Lama

Tenzin Gyatso, the fourteenth and current Dala...

Tenzin Gyatso, the fourteenth and current Dalai Lama, is the leader of the exiled Tibetan government in India. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you consider yourself a kind person?  Are you surrounded by kind people?  What has created your ideas about what kindness is?

Qualities of Kind People

I am always deeply touched by kind people, and there are several things that I notice about them.  They are people who are at peace with themselves.  They look for what is positive in others and in situations.  They are empathetic and compassionate.

These are the kind of people I want in my life, the people I can trust who, when there is conflict, will talk respectfully about our differences and work things out.  I can look back on my life and see the many times when I tolerated behavior in relationships and friendships that was less than respectful of who I was and my needs.  Now I find that I am less willing to ignore such disrespect and that more of the people I draw into my life are kind.

What has changed and why is kindness so important to me now?  Peace, love, and joy are now my priorities.

Kindness Is Based On Loving Ourselves

I recently read an article “The Magic of Unconditional Love:  An Interview with Don Miguel Ruiz” by Diane Marie Bishop in Science of Mind Magazine.  In the article, Ruiz talks about how we cannot love others unconditionally unless we unconditionally love ourselves.  Over the years, my ability to love myself has grown.  I have let go of my need to be perfect or to fit someone else’s standard.  This acceptance has given me more peace, and I have learned to be kinder to myself and others.

It is all connected.  When we love ourselves, peace and joy automatically become part of our lives and the expression of kindness becomes a natural thing.  We are less reactive and more aware of how our words and actions affect others.  We are also more flexible and able to adapt to the needs of others when it is appropriate.  But we also are at peace with who we are and can say “no” when we must and do it in a way that is kind.

Negative Thinking Blocks Kindness

It was a challenging week last week with many every day difficulties arising.  It was a week of important teachings, a reminder that, instead of getting caught up in another’s negativity, I need to tap into my inner peace and stay there.  I wasn’t always able to do that, but I will continue to pursue that path.  Experiencing peace and love is my priority and what I want to share with others.

When we love ourselves, we are more likely to see life as positive.  When we are feeling positive, we are more likely to respond to life in a positive manner and act kindly.  But seeing the same situation from a negative point of view may completely change how we experience an event.  Negative thinking can be a powerful block that supports our egos’ worst choices and keeps us from acting kindly from the heart.

Recently, I offered to loan a friend a library book I’d finished so she could also read it before it was due.  With a long waiting list, it was hard to get.  She emailed me to leave it in her mailbox, but I wasn’t comfortable with that due to the torrential rains we were having, and it belonged to the library so I didn’t want to risk its getting damaged.  Since we lived close to each other, I asked her to give me a call when she was home, and I would bring it to her or she could pick it up.  She thought my concern was foolish, and she became angry that I wouldn’t do this the way she wanted, rejected my offer, and refused to return my phone call so we could work it out.

I was rather shocked by the whole situation.  Her response to the situation seemed harsh and out of proportion to the reality although, in the past, she had been disturbed about situations she viewed as negative when I didn’t see them that way.  Still, what created this problem?  Had I been unkind without realizing it?  Was she stressed about something or angry at me for another reason?  I didn’t know.  By focusing on the negative rather than the positive aspect of the situation and refusing to communicate, my friend created a problem that didn’t need to exist and eroded the trust I felt for her.

Kindness

Kindness (Photo credit: -RejiK)

Positive Thinking Supports Kindness

An experience with a sales person last week when I had a problem with a new cell phone also illustrated the consequences of positive and negative approaches to situations.  This man made it clear that he only had time for people who were there to buy something although I had been required to trade out my phone for a new one due to network changes.

Because of his lack of customer service, I decided not to do business there again.  Instead I went to another store where a kind young man showed concern for my problems and took the time to show me how to use the new phone.  Perhaps he was just a kind person or perhaps he understood making a customer happy might mean more sales in the long run.  Either way he took the higher road.

Kindness May Be Expressed With Empathy and Compassion

Two other ways we can express kindness are through empathy and compassion.  They are beautiful expressions of our love and peace.  With empathy we are able to put ourselves in the other person’s place and feel what he is feeling.  We may make this connection because we’ve experience a similar situation or because we use our imagination to envision what he is feeling.  Compassion takes us one step further emotionally to a place where we want to help.

To share our feelings of concern through either of these expressions is an act of kindness.  We care if another person is in pain or difficulty and want life to be better for him/her.  I have another friend who frequently expresses these qualities.  The trust I feel toward him because of this is huge.  Whether he thinks my feelings are foolish or not is irrelevant.  What he offers me is concern and empathy first.  If we argue, it becomes a respectful conversation that allows us to understand each other and helps our relationship grow deeper.  As a result, I feel loved and at peace with him.   I can always trust that he cares about what is best for me.

Allowing kindness to become an important part of our lives can truly change them for the better, for kindness is part of the holy within us.  It’s just another aspect of treating others as we wish to be treated.  Perhaps it is also another way of changing our own little worlds and contributing positively to the larger one.

What kindness have you expressed or experienced lately?

© 2013 Georganne Spruce                                                                   ZQT4PQ5ZN7F5

Related Articles:  Appropriate Compassion, Soul to Soul with Don Miguel Ruiz (video interview with Oprah), Are You Empathetic – 3 Types of Empathy and What they Mean, How to Fix the Broken Record in Your Head

AWAKENING TO RELATIONSHIPS: EMPATHY, Part 1

“No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Theodore Roosevelt

Intimate relationship

Intimate relationship (Photo credit: Masashi Mochida)

How do you feel when you are able to empathize with one you love?  Does having someone empathize with you draw you closer?  How important is empathy in your life?  Is it a part of love?

It’s spring again and the days grow longer and the light becomes more intense.  On winter’s cold days, I enjoyed curling up under a blanket to read, writing in my journal, or watching a few televisions programs.  But with the Spring Equinox, something shifts, and although March can’t decide whether it’s winter or spring, a few flowers are beginning to blossom.

The light pulls at me and I want to be outside.  Something opens in me—my heart feels exposed and touched by the blossoms and the song of new birds returning to the area.  I want to be the light spreading through the forest.

Edith Wharton said, “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or to be the mirror that reflects it.”  One way I can spread light is through my words, and today the word that compels me to speak is empathy because I’ve decided to write a series of blogs on relationships and feel it is the most essential quality in a loving or caring relationship.

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Empathy In Healthy Relationships

We have many kinds of relationships with friends, family, lovers, or co-workers, and the quality of those relationships involves several aspects: empathy, intimacy, integrity, and commitment.  In healthy relationships, all these aspects function in a positive way.  They create a meaningful connection, but the lack of empathy always creates separation.  When a therapist friend of mine stated that the main reason for divorce in this country is lack of empathy, I wasn’t surprised.

Empathy is the deep emotional understanding of another’s feelings or problems.  We may feel what the other person is feeling because we’ve had a similar experience or we may be emotionally sensitive enough that we can imagine how they feel.  It is a deeper understanding than sympathy which is merely an intellectual understanding of what the other person feels.

Parents Must Teach Children Empathy

In any kind of relationship, empathy makes it possible for two people to bond in a caring way.  Empathy comes from a loving and spiritual place within us, and it is a skill we hopefully learn as children from our parents’ behavior.  Parents must teach children to identify what they feel and encourage them to talk about what bothers them and makes them happy or angry.  Otherwise, they may withdraw or develop dysfunctional ways, such as bullying, to express their frustration.

I have had the experience of talking with an adult, expressing my anger about a situation, and had them pull away.  One friend even asked me why I was angry at her when I was talking about a situation that had nothing to do with her and where she wasn’t even present.  I came to understand that when people, like my friend, have been reared to believe it isn’t acceptable to feel negative emotion or to express it, they withdraw when those feelings are expressed by others.  They may have the ability to empathize only when acceptable emotions are expressed.

Lack Of Empathy May Damage Relationships

This withdrawal can be damaging to a love relationship.  I had a similar experience with a man who was unable to see how some of his behaviors were hurtful to me and this caused on-going conflict.  He had learned in childhood that the way to be safe when there was conflict was not to express feelings and to physically withdraw.  This behavior may have protected him as a child, but as an adult, his inability to empathize with my feelings prevented us from having a deeper emotional connection.

Empathy Is Essential To Community

I am fortunate to live in a beautiful mountain community where spiritual awareness is at a high level.  Still, I meet people who are so stuck on being right that their narrow-mindedness separates them from the group or community. They don’t see how disrespectful they are.  The problem isn’t that their thoughts or beliefs are too different from the groups’ ideas, but that they have to prove theirs is the only right idea. They create separation rather than connection. They clearly lack empathy.

Adults Can Learn To Be Empathetic

Expressing empathy says, “I care,” and we all want to know someone cares.  It is deeply hurtful when those we love are not empathetic.  Even when we reach adulthood without this vital skill, it is still possible to learn how to empathize through therapy or just retraining ourselves, not only to listen to others, but to listen to ourselves.  We can go inside and learn to identify what we are really feeling and set our intention to become more aware.  Peter Gerlach says that emotions point to a need that needs filling.  If we don’t know what we’re feeling, we can’t fill our own needs, much less someone else’s.

I think Roosevelt was right, “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”  Take the time to listen and be empathetic.  This is one of the deepest and most loving ways we may connect with other people, letting them know we understand their pain and frustration.  When we can risk sharing more intimate thoughts and feelings, we may come to know and love each other in profound ways.  Expressing empathy in a relationship may transform it.  We are all One after all.

© 2013 Georganne Spruce                                                           ZQT4PQ5ZN7F5

Related Articles:  Empathy in Leadership: Ten Reasons Why It Matters, Living in Patience with Your Emotional Pain Body – Eckhart Tolle, 5 Barriers to Empathy in Marriage (and How to Overcome Them)