Authentic Empathy, Understanding and Forgiveness
Estimated Reading Time: 5 Minutes
Forgiveness as it Relates to Understanding and Authentic Empathy
When it comes to understanding and authentic empathy, forgiveness is a key component. Why? When someone close to you continually says they understand you and you realize they do not or cannot give you authentic empathy, forgiveness is the best tool you can use to get over the pain and frustration this causes.
How would you feel if someone showed you forgiveness the next time you had a challenge understanding them? Do you feel that forgiving someone is condoning their actions? Do you feel that forgiving someone will reinforce their behavior? What are the benefits you can initially coming along with forgiving someone?
When it comes to authentic empathy, understanding, I had to learn the hard way about utilizing forgiveness to get over pain and frustration. I was dating a woman who would sometimes remind me, when had a disagreement or a challenge, that she was trying to understand me. She would tell me about things she had read or things she had found to understand me better. Eventually, I realized that she was finding things to explain her understanding of me and what she thought I was going through.
There is a world of difference between finding things to validate what you think someone is going though and finding things to understand who a person is. As she would point out articles that she read, I was both appreciative and resentful. I appreciated the fact that she was trying. I was resentful because I saw these articles as fitting her perception of who I was and not how I saw myself. The more resentful I became, the more distant our relationship became. She spent time trying to prove one thing and I spent time trying to prove something else.
To her credit, she was trying. She wanted things to work between us. I did see that while we were together, and I had the desire to make things work too. I just could not get over the fact that I did not see myself as she saw me. What I did not realize at the time was that, if I would have had forgiveness in my heart for her not seeing me as I was, I would have been able to better understand her and better able to experience authentic empathy for her and the experiences she had that led her to think like she did.
At the time, my belief was that forgiving someone was condoning their actions and agreeing with them. Also, I felt it was egotistical of me to “forgive” someone for something they did that they thought was nice or kind. Even as I write this today, I hear how condescending the concept of forgiving someone could sound. The thing I do to keep it from being condescending is keep the thought of forgiveness to myself and let my actions speak for themselves. In other words, I feel a level of forgiveness for some that softens how I react and interact with them.
The other thing I realize as I look back on things is that her life experiences were different than mine. Given her life experiences, I understand why she saw things the way she did. Given what she went through in her life, I now feel authentic empathy for her.
When someone does not have the same experiences as you do, it makes it that much more difficult for them to relate to you. They understand at an intellectual level what you are going though. They may even say the right things. However, their lack of experiences means they struggle to experience authentic empathy for you.
Think of it this way… if you have never broken a bone, will you be able to feel the pain someone close to you is going through when they break a bone? Most likely not. On one hand, you will be able to understand that they are in pain. On the other hand, the closest you will come to feeling their pain is if they can describe the pain to you in a way you can relate to.
Is it not the right and kind thing to do to forgive someone who has little or no basis to experience authentic empathy for you? Forgiveness does not mean you need to keep someone in your life. If the lack of empathy from someone is causing you stress and keeping them in your life is a net-negative, you may need to move on from the friendship/relationship.
Forgiveness is a gift you give both yourself and the person who is struggling to empathize with you.
How this applies to fear…
When it comes to fear and forgiving someone, many of us are afraid that forgiving someone means that we condone their actions or are reinforcing a thought or behavior we do not agree with. To overcome this fear, remember, forgiveness merely means that you understand and have empathy for why someone did what they did.
How this applies to WACASHWI…
When it comes to WACASHWI and forgiving someone, as you move things on to and through the process, you will have enough to worry about without having to carry around a suitcase full of resentment. Living in a state of forgiveness and figuring out who in your life is a net-positive and who is a net-negative will allow you to focus your precious mental energy on the thing on your list. This will benefit you and those around you.
Your daily invitations…
- I invite you to think about people in your life you feel do not empathize with you.
- I invite you to consider forgiving at least one person whom you feel does not empathize with you.
- I invite you to write down your thoughts, feelings, and actions in your journal.
- I invite you to talk the people you thought about above and start showing them you forgive them.
- I invite you to talk with a coach, mentor, or therapist if these thoughts stir up emptions or feeling that you have a challenge handling.
Final step – how will you implement one thing you learned today in your life?