Authentic Empathy and Letting Go – Part 1
Estimated Reading Time: 6 Minutes
Knowing when to let someone go even when you experience authentic empathy for them.
Do you feel that that once you experience authentic empathy for someone you will keep them in your life forever? How do you know it is time to let someone go? Does this change when you believe you understand them and experience authentic empathy for them? Do you believe that letting people’s words or actions negatively affect you, shows a lack of authentic empathy on your part?
I was dating someone once who I knew at a deep and intimate level. I knew she was a good person in her heart and soul. I felt and believed I understood her. During our relationship, she said and did some things that made me feel uncomfortable. It was never anything physical and most of the things would be considered small in nature. Any time something would happen, she would have a good reason why it happened. Each time, I would end up believing she was coming from a good place. One time, we were talking about sneakers. Eventually, the conversation got to the old Sketchers sneakers that had the rounded bottom on them.
As we started to talk about them, she started to laugh at how they looked. As she continued to laugh, I could feel my facial expression changing into one of displeasure. She noticed that and said, “Oh honey. You did not own a pair of those sneakers. Did you?” The truth was that, at the time we met, I owned two pair. I wore them most places because I liked the thicker sole and how I felt after walking. I never wore them around her because I knew that some people thought they looked funny. When we first got together, I did not want to let something as unimportant as the sneakers ruin things.
When I said I had owned two pairs, the discussion went from how funny they looked to why I never wore them around her. She could tell it upset me that she found the sneakers funny. Throughout the rest of the conversation, she focused on one of two things. One was that she believed I must have felt they looked funny too because I never wore them around her. Her other focus was that she believed that I was not as comfortable as I said I was about them. For my part, I focused on how her making fun of the way the sneakers looked made me feel.
As the conversation ended, while I understood why she made fun of the sneakers, I lacked authentic empathy for her when it came to why she got so upset during the conversation. As I continued to think about the conversation, I realized why she got so upset. If I was too afraid to wear a pair of funny sneakers around her, what else was I too afraid to be open to her about. (Spoiler alert: nothing. As a side note, I had not come to appreciate the power of authentic empathy yet. This is one of those instances that led me to discovering the concept.)
Over the course of our relationships, these situations would happen every now and then. While most were not that bad on their own, the cumulative effect they had on me took its toll. This continued to happen even after I discovered how to experience authentic empathy for her. No matter how much I experienced authentic empathy for her, who she was and why some things happened, it did not stop those situations from negatively affecting me.
Before I went thought this experience, I believed that understanding someone was akin to loving them for who they are. As I went through this experience, I came to realize that it was experiencing authentic empathy for someone that equated to loving people for who they are, and I believed that authentic empathy was enough to keep a relationship together. Now I realize that even authentic empathy will not keep someone in your life if the negative effects of them being in your life (on you or them) are too severe.
When we meet people, we start off trying to understand them and have them understand us. Sometimes, understanding is all it takes for people to be in our lives forever. Other times, it takes developing authentic empathy for them. Experiencing authentic empathy for them when they say what they say, do what they do, and are the away they are. In the end, you accept them for who and what they are. You accept that their words and actions come from the right place. You accept them.
Sometimes, acceptance is not enough. Sometimes, you can understand someone, experience authentic empathy for that person and still have that person’s words or action have a negative effect on you. When that happens to you, I invite you to either figure out a way for that person not to have a net-negative effect on your life or to let them go. If things are bad, there is no need for you to be a martyr and keep them in your life.
You can experience authentic empathy for someone, love them for who they are and still let them go.
How this applies to fear…
When it comes to fear and letting someone go who negatively affects us that we also experience authentic empathy towards, many of us fear that we will regret letting the person go. We make excuses for keeping them in our lives. To work through this fear, we need to realize the truth in the old saying; when one door closes another one opens. As we move on from the people who negatively affect us, we open our hearts and lives and make room for the people who will positively impact us.
How this applies to WACASHWI…
When it comes to WACASHWI and letting someone go who negatively affects us that we also experience authentic empathy towards, the people you keep in your life will influence you along your journey. If you keep people who have a negative impact on you, they will have a negative influence on your journey. I invite you to work to keep people close to you who positively impact your life and your journey.
Your daily invitations…
- I invite you to think about one person in your life that you empathize with and that adds to your stress level.
- I invite you to consider why you are experiencing the additional stress.
- I invite you to write down your thoughts, feelings, and actions in your journal.
- I invite you to talk to the person you are thinking about to see what can be done about the stress you are experiencing.
Final step – how will you implement one thing you learned today in your life?