Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It is often confused with sympathy which is defined as feelings of pity or sorrow for someone else’s misfortune. Empathic people feel others pain and heartache often times as strongly as their own. Empathy can be a blessing and a burden. To understand a friend’s feelings and feel their pain and their happiness can bring people so much closer, but can be overwhelming at times.
I often struggle with letting people get close to me because feeling their pain can be too much, but then I have to remind myself that joining in their feelings of happiness and joy can also be exhilarating. That the joys outweigh the sadness – that ultimately good friends are worth any amount of pain. I know when I was dealing with a lot, just having friends that would sit and listen meant the world to me. I didn’t need someone to try to “fix” it, just listen to me.
In this age of isolation and judgement, I feel that more people need to open themselves up to feeling empathy – to attempt to understand what others are feeling, instead of judging them based on limited information. While we will never know what people are thinking and it is hard to know what others are feeling, the simple act of trying to know, or trying to understand can be enlightening, eye opening, and even life altering.
This week's blog writer is Delaynna Trim, Curator of Collections at the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art. She is also an adjunct professor teaching art history at Oklahoma Baptist University.