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Is being empathic a good thing?

JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matterNetherlands Veteran

I was listening to a talk by Joseph Goldstein on the Waking Up app, it was about how we listen. He cited a sutra of the Buddha’s, which I believe was this one…

"In the same way, monks, others may use these five modes of speech when speaking to you — speech that is timely or untimely, true or false, gentle or harsh, with a good or a harmful motive, and with a loving heart or hostility. In this way, monks, you should train yourselves: 'Neither shall our minds be affected by this, nor for this matter shall we give vent to evil words, but we shall remain full of concern and pity, with a mind of love, and we shall not give in to hatred. On the contrary, we shall live projecting thoughts of universal love to that very person, making him as well as the whole world the object of our thoughts of universal love — thoughts that have grown great, exalted and measureless. We shall dwell radiating these thoughts which are void of hostility and ill will.' It is in this way, monks, that you should train yourselves.”

From https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.021x.budd.html

Now I have always been rather sensitive and empathic, and when people talk to me falsely, harshly, with a harmful motive and with hostility, it shocks me and I find it hard not to respond. These things can put me out of sorts for days. I’ve tried to ignore an incident like this in the past, but that prevented me from making a response at all, which is not a good thing.

In this particular matter, being soft-hearted, responsive, sensitive and empathic is not an advantage.

JeffreyLittleleafFleaMarketLionduck

Comments

  • I think it's good to be empathetic to help avoid doing that stuff to others but it does hurt when someone else is harsh, false, etc to be that empathic person hearing them.

    SuraShine
  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran

    Empathy can be a pro or a con depending on perspective. I see it as feeling through others and as good a tool as it is for understanding each other, it does have some cons. Imagine a surgeon trying to operate while empathizing with the patient. Would probably be better when presenting the bill (that joke isn't effective on us Canadians).

    FleaMarket
  • howhow Veteran Veteran

    When body and mind are one, empathy is a given.
    When body and mind are in disarray, so is empathy.
    Empathy will be little more than theoretical
    till some transcendence of self & other occur.

    lobsterFleaMarket
  • Shoshin1Shoshin1 Veteran
    edited December 2022

    Is being empathic a good thing?

    I, like most other people I know, am empathetic towards what other sentient beings are feeling/going through....I find this a blessing...However, I have also found, that having enough emotional intelligence not to allow empathy to cloud the big picture, is a thing to develop too...

    We are all cut from the same cloth... = Sharing the same five aggregates...

    “Judge Softly” (AKA Walk a mile in his moccasins)

    Pray, don't find fault with the man that limps,
    Or stumbles along the road.
    Unless you have worn the moccasins he wears,
    Or stumbled beneath the same load.

    There may be tears in his soles that hurt
    Though hidden away from view.
    The burden he bears placed on your back
    May cause you to stumble and fall, too. . .

    Don’t sneer at the man who is down today
    Unless you have felt the same blow
    That caused his fall or felt the shame
    That only the fallen know.

    Don’t be too harsh with the man that sins.
    Or pelt him with words, or stone, or disdain.
    Unless you are sure you have no sins of your own,
    And it’s only wisdom and love that your heart contains.

    For you know if the tempter’s voice
    Should whisper as soft to you,
    As it did to him when he went astray,
    It might cause you to falter, too.

    Just walk a mile in his moccasins
    Before you abuse, criticize and accuse.
    If just for one hour, you could find a way
    To see through his eyes, instead of your own muse.

    I believe you’d be surprised to see
    That you’ve been blind and narrow-minded, even unkind.
    There are people on reservations and in the ghettos
    Who have so little hope, and too much worry on their minds.

    Brother, there but for the grace of God go you and I.
    Just for a moment, slip into his mind and traditions
    And see the world through his spirit and eyes
    Before you cast a stone or falsely judge his conditions.

    Remember to walk a mile in his moccasins
    And remember the lessons of humanity taught to you by your elders.
    We will be known forever by the tracks we leave
    In other people's lives, our kindnesses and generosity.

    Take the time to walk a mile in his moccasins.”

    ~by Mary T. Lathrap, 1895~

    LittleleafJeroenpersonlobster
  • Yes it happens to me with unexpected hurts from other people.
    I think I have just accepted that’s just the way I am. I have an extra large jugular and it shows. It takes a long time to stop bleeding before I can respond, if at all.

    As a Christian’s i must expect that a world of sin will not be a bed of roses. Yet I also must keep a hope for the best. Its a fine balance. An attitude. For me it means others will disappoint me a lot. They will go for the jugular and I must be ready.

    Being constantly on the battlefield like this is a daily consideration i am constantly learning to master and nurture.

    Blessings/ Metta.

    personFleaMarket
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    When Buddhists 'Train the Mind', they are also unfolding the locks into impeded emotions, speech, body and karmic nots and knots.

    We all knew that wisdom, empathy, body calming, emotional stability, strength of peace and piece of heaven realms, are all possible and even passable …

    2023, no need to change anything but everything … <3o:)B)

    Littleleaf
  • @Jeroen said:
    Now I have always been rather sensitive and empathic, and when people talk to me falsely, harshly, with a harmful motive and with hostility, it shocks me and I find it hard not to respond. These things can put me out of sorts for days. I’ve tried to ignore an incident like this in the past, but that prevented me from making a response at all, which is not a good thing.

    In this particular matter, being soft-hearted, responsive, sensitive and empathic is not an advantage.

    Yeah I can be quite sensitive to verbal daggers too. I've found there's a lot of different less than useful ways to go about dealing with it. All of which are more like band-aids to particular types of wounds. One that I'm trying to practice more often which may actually be part of Buddhist practice is to figure out who or what exactly is being wounded.

    I find the the flip side of this equally hard to understand.. being unable to stop thinking everything I've said is a dagger to others.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    I find the the flip side of this equally hard to understand.. being unable to stop thinking everything I've said is a dagger to others.

    Just so you know. You are fine. Kind and unwounding.
    In between self wounding and super fluffy bunny empathy is equanimity, which stills extremes ... <3

    FleaMarket
  • @lobster said:
    Just so you know. You are fine. Kind and unwounding.
    In between self wounding and super fluffy bunny empathy is equanimity, which stills extremes ... <3

    A true relief. 🙏

  • To be empathetic does not mean to believe or not believe the other person. Empathy is caring for the person regardless of that person's circumstance or even intent. Empathy does not require one to like the person to whom empathy is being shown. It does require that the empathy is true. It is easy to be empathetic to one's friends but may be difficult to show empathy to one's enemies or those professing to be your enemies.
    Empathy is extended to the person. If one can see another as person, one can empathize. If one fails to see another as a person, there can be no empathy.
    Thus one/we must view each individual as a person regardless if friend, foe or stranger.
    One/we must view the potential for good even in those not displaying good. Empathy is non-judgemental.

    Didn't say it was easy =)

    Peace to all

    lobster
  • howhow Veteran Veteran

    Trying not to be pedantic here but I thought..

    Empathy is being able to experience what another being experiences. While it helps break down the boundaries one creates between self and others, using it only to see the good in others, hobbles it with the psychological limitations of our own belief systems.

    Empathy distinguishes the difference between itself and sympathy when empathy allows one to truly slip into the shoes of another, beyond the realms of our own conditioning, unrestrained by what ever we might hope to find or not.

    While sympathy and empathy are both valid skill sets within the path toward suffering's cessation, sympathy points out the potential for a shared commonality in others, while empathy offers the manifestation of it.

    lobsterShoshin1person
  • @how said:

    While sympathy and empathy are both valid skill sets within the path toward suffering's cessation, sympathy points out the potential for a shared commonality in others, while empathy offers the manifestation of it.

    ...and compassion, motivation...a move to action...

  • pegembarapegembara Veteran
    edited January 10

    The four sublime abodes mentioned by the Buddha are

    Metta-friendliness
    Karuna-compassion
    Mudita-sympathetic joy
    Upekkha-equanimity

    Take the time to walk a mile in his moccasins
    Empathy as in putting oneself in another's shoes is strangely not included.

    Compassion for another's pain is not the same thing as empathy.

    A surgeon cannot afford to only put themselves in the patient's shoes. Compassion is needed. How else can they do what is needed?

    Empathy precedes compassion. Empathy without compassion leaves the individual drained of energy as a result of feeling what the other feels. Empathy occurs immediately and leaves no emotional room between the individual and the one who is suffering. Compassion is more cognitive in nature. There is a sense of self awareness that provides some necessary space between the two people. The empathizer experiences the same suffering with the other, leaving the empathizer overwhelmed. As a result, compassion allows the individual the be more helpful than the individual who experiences empathy alone.

    In other words, don't just feel.
    Do something about it.

    Why is it called the “Heart Sutra”? It has that name because it teaches the heart of the Mahayana, primarily in terms of the view. However, the basic motivation of the Mahayana is also implicitly contained in this sutra in the form of Avalokiteshvara, the great bodhisattva who is the embodiment of the loving-kindness and compassion of all buddhas. It is actually the only Prajnaparamita Sutra in which Avalokiteshvara appears at all, and in it he is even the main speaker. Thus, the Heart Sutra teaches emptiness through the epitome of compassion. It is often said that, in a sense, emptiness is the heart of the Mahayana, but the heart of emptiness is compassion. The scriptures even use the phrase “emptiness with a heart of compassion.” It is crucial to never forget that. The main reason for Avalokitesvara’s presence here is to symbolize the aspect of compassion and to emphasize that we should not miss out on it.

    https://www.lionsroar.com/the-heart-sutra-will-change-you-forever/

    David
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