I have empathic tendencies. That isn’t new age nonsense. I can’t read someone’s mind. But I can get a sense of who someone is very quickly at times. I’m a quick judge of character because people are energy. Even if you have no physical energy, your spirit is energy. If someone’s energy resonates with my energy, it’s like the notes the resonate in a chord in music; the pieces create harmony or they don’t based on the different energies. Sometimes, I can just feel that someone has a good energy and want to get to know them better because we’d probably get along. Sometimes I can tell they aren’t so good and I want to avoid them. Sometimes people surprise me and I realize I was wrong about them, either direction, but that’s pretty rare.
I can also feel emotional energy. That isn’t very cut and dry, but I can typically tell if it’s negative or positive even if I can’t tell what kind of negative or positive. Sometimes I just tune it out and can come off as quite socially dense, but it is a survival mechanism because it can be really exhausting feeling what others are feeling. However, once I’m connected to someone, once I trust them (and often trust from me isn’t an earned or merited thing, it is just something I feel I can give or not) then I have a hard time distancing myself. If they are having a bad day, I carry a weight around, just a constant awareness that they are struggling. It can be exhausting, and sometimes I wish I could just stop caring.
A lot of people have sympathy and empathy for others. That is very common in humans. But in some people, it happens to such a degree that they can become physically ill from feeling so strongly what others are going through. They basically feel the burden of another as their own, or take on the emotional energy of their surroundings regardless of their own emotions at the time.
I was in full empath swing this morning. I had someone on my mind, someone I care about (despite never having met yet). And that someone mentioned being scared. Instantly there was a weight in the middle of my chest. It’s only just now easing up, about fourteen hours later. I’ve carried their concern, and my concern for them, the whole day. There hasn’t been much of anything I could do about it. But I felt it. And I prayed for them.
Another friend was in full apathy swing today. We had an interesting conversation. I know that I care about people and I don’t truly want to not care, but there are times, like today, when it has such an effect on me that it is hard to deal with. I was having a good day. I felt fine. But I felt others’ not-fine feelings, too. It was more than a bit conflicting.
My mother is very much like me. She has an incredible sense about animals. She is constantly sharing and promoting different animal groups and signing petitions to help improve their lives in any way that she can. Another friend has trouble with the commercials for the children’s hospitals and the wounded veterans programs. She cares so much that she’d give them everything she had, but her husband is oblivious to the same advertisements and would think she was insane if she tried to help. Plus, she would have a hard time knowing when to stop helping! It can get to be too much seeing the pain and hurt in the world when you feel it so deeply, as though it were happening to you, even if it is happening to someone or something else. Sometimes doing any little thing that is proactive in helping ease their plight, can help to ease the weight that we carry.
I was just having a conversation with a new friend who said, “It’s a lot harder for us to walk with someone than walk away. And we have gotten really bad at following in Christ’s footsteps in that regard to enter someone’s struggle and live it with them instead of condemning them from afar.” We were talking about something else, but it so perfectly summed up my conundrum today. My friend who is scared, is scared of walking alone through a difficult time and place. But she isn’t alone. See, because I feel all of these things and because I know what it’s like to walk alone, I’m the person who will be there if at all possible. I’m not sure it is possible for me to physically be there in this instance, but I will try and I can pray her through the scary part even from a distance. And there are others who may be able to help her. What most people find difficult, and what I have wondered all day if it were a curse, actually makes up a part of myself that I’m really proud of. I’ve been there with people in the dark and scary times. I’m willing to be there when most people aren’t. If I’m doing it for them, it doesn’t scare me that much. I can focus on their needs and I often forget my own. For me, it is almost always harder to walk away.
It is a fine line of balance that I’m having to relearn as I reenter this world of people after years of isolation. I can’t let everyone’s feelings weigh me down. But I’ll be damned if I will ever willingly let someone I care about walk alone. So, I changed my mind. I don’t want to stop caring. I may want to tone it down on occasion. But just like I can’t help dreaming big, I can’t help feeling so much, and if that leads me to walk beside someone during whatever trial they are facing, then it will have been worth it.