Vignettes in Aging – Empathy

Empathy = comforting = compassion = sympathy = warmth = being there for someone = being there for ourselves

Empathy is gold, a valuable commodity, a treasured gift to someone who needs it. Don’t we all need it? Sometimes we need it a lot; sometimes we’re the ones giving it to others. It’s a salve, spread over the faux pas of lives when someone no longer feels lovable because of their mistakes.

Empathy is for us. We need the same compassion and caring for ourselves as others do. Empathy for ourselves is taking care of our health and well-being, which can mean time alone or just spending time with positive, upbeat friends, with people who love you no matter what, or taking care to move our bodies a little more, and pass on that second drink.

What prevents us from being empathetic? Judgment.

People who are judgmental lack empathy. When something bad happens to someone, judgmental people don’t immediately think, “Oh, what can I do to help them feel better?” They instead think things like, “Well, that’ll teach ‘em,” or “Now, if they had only done what I did to prevent such a thing.” Some may go so far as to think, “Better them than me.” Yikes! Are we getting joy out of the discomfort of others?

Another thing that impedes empathy is drama. The trauma that creates the need for empathy can be exciting. For instance, the fiancé of our best friend breaks off the engagement, and we grab the drama and run with comparisons, retaliations, gossiping, and suggestions based on our experience. What’s really needed is to be that soft place for our friend who needs our understanding and empathy. Be quiet and listen, make eye contact, hug if it’s appropriate, and let them know you’re there for them, that you care about them.

Be that friend who is always counted on for empathy. I bet there’s someone in your life right now who could use your empathy.