Life and Times Blog

Not in it, unless you’re in it!

I have always placed empathy high up in the arena of noble traits that God has given us as humanity.
I appreciate empathy on all the levels, on the big drama events in life, but also on the little awareness in the details of living with others, like keeping a window open, or parking inconsiderately. Not paying heed to the reaction of the other just makes for rude living.

On the big drama events: sympathy is more of the act of feeling for somebody,whereas empathy brings that feeling closer, feeling WITH somebody.
However, as far as we are able to extend ourselves in this matter of co-feeling, it still comes up severely short. It is impossible to feel to the same extent, because it is impossible to know all the thousands of thoughts, experiences, reactions that an individual may have in the context of a specific event or action.IMPOSSIBLE.
We are prepared for our reactions from the day we are born, our characters and personalities, and thus responses, are the result of years and years of interaction, experience, processing. This extensive background to who we are and how we react means that no one person can “step in” to your situation to truly co-feel at the same depth.

There have been occasions when friends have gone through an experience that required my empathy and where possible I always try to provide that empathy with sincerity. However, at the times when I have also experienced something similar after their event I always feel like my empathy to them was shallow and uninformed. I feel like going back to apologise to them for being so deficient in that empathy. Going through something similar brings you somewhat closer to appreciating the persons context, not all the way, but closer.

It’s saddening to consider this though, it implies that we are always alone beyond a certain point. That we are unable to truly share tragedy or joy with others. Of course there is plenty of space to share up to that limit, but there always will be that limit.
God is our only companion in all of this because He is the only One who can grasp everything that happens in our psyche. He is the one being to whom we can turn and communicate without words, but with a depth of emotion and full coherence through our feeling, and our submission. Like every other, the richer our relationship with God, the more we are able to draw strength and solace and inspiration from Him.

Extending ourselves in empathy does prepare us better for going through similar experiences, but more than that it opens our hearts and our eyes to more of the complicated tapestry of life It makes us aware of our vulnerability and of life’s unpredictability.

The Quran says in Surah Tin, “We have created man in the best of moulds…”, empathy is a trait that is an example of this excellence in mankind. Empathy motivates us to deeds of goodness.

As lonely as this all may seem let us aspire to a day when there will be no loneliness, a day upon which we will find our home of peace, only peace :
Surah Bayyinah – 98:7 Those who have faith and do righteous deeds,- they are the best of creatures
Their reward is with Allah. Gardens of Eternity, beneath which rivers flow; they will dwell therein for ever; Allah well pleased with them, and they with Him: all this for such as fear their Lord and Cherisher.


November 9, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 10 Comments