Knowing that life isn’t easy in your head is different from knowing it deep down in your soul. So many hard, heart-breaking things have come across my path this week and it makes me wonder if I will ever really get used to the “hard.” If you are an empathetic person, your nature, the way you were designed, seems to make the hard things in life feel even harder. Being an empath, I know that no one asks us to hoist the world upon our shoulders, and yet we do it without even thinking. It is instinctual. Most of the time we don’t even know we have done it until we are buckling under the weight.
I think being aware that one is an empathetic person helps to be mindful of how we handle things and the pitfalls of this gift. This is a gift God has given us. He has a plan and a purpose for each gifting and empathy/the gift of mercy, is no exception. Below is a list of 7 CHARACTERISTICS OF AN EMPATH. See if you see yourself in here:)
1. WE FEEL OTHERS’ EMOTIONS AND TAKE THEM ON AS OUR OWN.
Empaths cannot listen to struggle and heartache without slipping our feet out of our shoes and into the shoes of the sufferer. It is practically impossible for us to listen to heartache with our ears only and then go merrily along our way. We take those sadnesses into our hearts and carry them with us like they were our own.
2. WATCHING VIOLENCE OR CRUELTY ON TV OR MOVIES IS UNBEARABLE.
The instinctive way empaths transport ourselves into every situation in which people are hurting, demands that we be careful with what we watch on media. There are enough real people who are hurting, struggling, suffering. We don’t need to add hours of miserable fictional characters to our load. And watching the news? You may as well just put our hearts in a meat grinder! Can I get an Amen?!
3. SMALL TALK IS TORTURE!
I am so envious of people who can mingle and chit-chat. I watch them with awe, from a distance, comfortable and conversing with ease. But it isn’t that simple for an empathetic person. We can sense when something is wrong, but not being said. We feel the vibes, see each change in facial expression, notice all body language. I cannot tell you how many times my husband has been talking to someone and I am listening and watching the conversation from a distance. Afterwards, I will tell him that something is wrong in that person’s life. He says that they seemed fine. It may be a few weeks down the road, but we find out that there was a big problem. Every.single.time.
Another reason empathetic people aren’t great at small talk is because we sense when there are deeper issues not being addressed in our conversations. We are usually awful pretenders and to see that another precious soul is struggling, and to just ignore it or gloss over it, feels insensitive and insincere. I am not always the best at timing when I tell a person, “I know you are struggling and I don’t know why, but if you need someone to talk to, I am here.” I have had to learn the hard way that timing is as important as empathizing and many times, sending a note is better than addressing the pain of another in public.
4. WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING OUT FOR THE UNDERDOG.
It seems like sensitive people can spot Underdogs from a mile away. Our Spidey Senses draw our eyes to them immediately when we enter a room. The Loner. The Struggler. The Odd one. We know what it is like to be on the outside, looking in and we are very familiar with the feeling of being alone. Empaths are generally not a bundle of joy to be around. We are intense, emotional and can be tiresome. We have so much of “the feels” all of the time, but because of those factors, we sense the “aloneness” in others. I even teach my girls, that if they are feeling alone at a social event, look for the person who seems to be sitting by themselves or not fitting in, and that is who they should go talk to.
5. WE HAVE A TENDENCY TO BE A MAGNET FOR HURTING PEOPLE.
Empathetic people have big hearts, but big hearts can be wearying. We are helpers and caretakers by nature. When we listen to a hurting person, we don’t just listen. We enter their pain. We walk in their shoes. We feel, to the best of our ability and experience, the way the hurting person does. The conversation ends. We go our separate ways. But the pain is still there. We carry that around with us, like a heavy winter coat. And each hurting person that we interact with adds one more winter coat. This is a downfall of being an empath. We can’t shake off their pain. We can’t leave it outside the car door as we close it to begin the drive home. To be truthful, I am awful at this. I wish I could just listen to hurting people and then go on about my life, but that seems like a virtually impossible goal, since I have failed a zillion times.
And that brings me to another point! Being so wrapped up in the struggle of others can make us neglectful of those closest to us. Sometimes it is the gentle reminder from my sweet husband or the grumpiness of my children that reminds me of what my first priority needs to be. I have to remind myself on a constant basis that there will always be hurting people on this planet. My family is a precious gift that I MUST NOT neglect! So sometimes I have to hide in my figurative cave, keeping my eyes on and saving my energy for my beautiful family.
6. EMPATHETIC PEOPLE ARE GOOD LISTENERS.
We rarely talk about our lives because we honestly care more about yours. This fact can be both good and bad, which leads me to the next point…
7 EMPATHETIC PEOPLE STRUGGLE WITH FATIGUE AND ILLNESS.
There are consequences to being so sensitive all of the time. Years of sensing and entering into the pain of others, of wearing the massive load of “winter coats” can cause excess stress and exhaustion. Those are the ingredients for all kinds of illnesses. I am on numerous medical Facebook groups and it never ceases to amaze me how many empathetic people are chronically ill. Which came first? The chicken or the egg? I am sure there are some who were not the sensitive type, who got a chronic illness and now have insight into struggle that they never had before. But many, I believe, were super sensitive all along and this is a fine the body demands for being walking, talking raw nerves, wandering the earth.
But there are challenges with every kind of giftedness. An Administrative type might have the stress that leadership brings. Teachers can struggle with pride and the stress of leading a group of people. Evangelists might struggle with depression because not everyone is excited about their Good News. Each gift has it’s struggles and each has a point where it is too much to do in our human strength. That is by Design, so that the good we do is empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Even though the weight of being an empathetic person can make my knees buckle at times, I am so thankful to know that God has a purpose for us on this Earth. He knew life would be hard and people would need a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. I am so thankful He created us to be able to sense pain that a person might have but may not have the courage to speak out loud. I am thankful He made empathetic people with “eyes” to see the person sitting alone at the lunch table and the ability to make deep soul connections with struggling fellow Earthlings, so that they can know that they aren’t alone. And like I always say, EVERYTHING, every illness, every loss, every heartbreak, is easier when you know you aren’t alone.
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