Various truths about empathy and love.
I’ve written of empathy before in this blog. Lately, I’ve reflected on how important empathy is in our lives, and how it can be misused. All emotions can be misused to some extent, but empathy misused can often be more disastrous. Why? Because empathy requires you to not just listen with sympathy; it requires you to understand another person on a deeper level. You have to dig deeply to understand a person’s thoughts, motivations, hopes, desires, and empathy does this.
How can it be misused? Take for example a transgender girl, who is brutally raped. The jury empathizes not with the victim, but with the attacker, and thus the attacker walks away with only a minor fine as the victim is in fear, knowing her attacker is still on the streets. This misuse of empathy, where the jury seeks to understand why the attacker brutalized this girl, is horribly destructive because it destroys the hope and spirit of the girl, who was victimized. Instead of trying to empathize with the girl and seeking to help her recover and stop this man from doing this terrible deed to someone else, the jury instead, using empathy, comes to understand the twisted reasoning of the attacker, and rallies against the girl. The girl, having lost her allies in the courtroom, is now alienated and ridiculed. She is left even more broken than before, but now her wounds aren’t just physical but also a deep wound on her spirit and mental wellness.
That is empathy gone horribly, horribly wrong, and in all honesty, one may say that empathy twisted to such a horrendous extreme has ceased to be true empathy, and has become instead a tool for destruction. Why empathize with someone different from you when it is easier to instead turn against them and destroy them so they no longer cause discomfort for you, making you rethink your thoughts on issues? There are many in our society today who have no wish to think anymore than they have to and so resent any who upset their carefully constructed view of reality. They have carefully fit what they see of the world into categories, but the world is too complex to be held within the confines of a box. There will be many a moment where a person’s rigid view of reality will be challenged. If you cannot let go of your old worldview, grow and create a new view of reality, then you become trapped and susceptible to warping emotions like empathy in order to destroy anything that challenges your rigid worldview.
In order to grow, you must be willing to change, and changing often involves letting go of ideas that entrap you and restrict growth. When your worldview begins to destroy others, then your worldview needs to be scrapped and created a new.
Life is precious; it does not last forever. To seek to destroy others and/or allow or urge others to do the same in order for you to live in what you consider a “safe reality,” that is when you cease to love. Love cannot exist with destruction, because when those two are coupled together, that is when love is twisted into a monstrous form that has no relation to its pure counterpart. In such an instance, love becomes fear and destruction and so ceases to be love.
Love cannot exist without empathy, but at the same time, it is far more than just empathy. Love requires you to seek to understand your partner on the most intimate level possible, and to continue to love them with kindness and gentleness, even when you and your partner have gone that deep. Love requires maintenance in order for it to stay healthy and continue to grow, and empathy is a tool in that maintenance. Love is a mode of attachment to another person at your most intimate level, but to maintain that attachment and build room for growth, you need empathy, honesty, and good communication.
This truth is often forgotten in our society today, where empathy is downplayed because it requires a certain amount of vulnerability, honesty, and work.