Empathy is a good thing. Empathy is necessary. There’s not enough of empathy in this world. The fighting in the world would probably cease to exist if everyone had empathy. Right?

Well, I have a problem controlling my empathy. Yes, this is a bad problem.

I’ve never known empathy to ever be a problem. As a matter of fact, the world has too much apathy and indignation and self-righteousness. Not enough people care. There’s not enough grace and love and valuing of human life.

Empathy comes very easy to me and I know that that is a miracle in and of itself. In middle and high school, I used to just rage and fight, as I was living from a central force of anger. Now, I find it a little too easy to cry when others are sad and I feel physical joy for others when there is great news. Love and compassion seem effortless as I am drawn to those that are broken-hearted and hurting. I ache for suffering and want desperately to change it and change the way it stomps out humanity. I know that all of the love and joy and empathy that I have is from God and that if left to my own depravity, I would choose to be self-involved and not care about the suffering of people, especially strangers. This empathy-prone nature sounds like such a good thing but I’ve recently learned that I have a problem guarding it.

Like anything meant for good, empathy can also be used as a tool to bring about discord. I had no idea this was happening in my own life until this week.

I’ve done a LOT of soul searching and reforming and relinquishing (to God) in the past few years. This has been the longest and deepest stretch of emotional and spiritual growth that has ever taken place in my life. This change has been painful and rough but it’s been necessary and breath-taking and glorious. For some reason, though, I couldn’t shake the fact that there was still some very deep-rooted issues going on in my life and I was struggling to find the cause. There are countless times that I will walk away from a conversation and feel like the worst person in the world. Feeling as though I just let someone gossip my ear off and talk trash about someone and I never took the high road or shined any light into the conversation. There are times when I’ll walk away from the conversation angry and upset at the person being spoken about even though they never caused me any harm. There has also been times where I’d also share my own negative feelings about (and insecurities with) people so that the conversation isn’t awkward and heavily-sided and uncomfortable. It never fails that as soon as I walk away, I feel horrible. It doesn’t happen with every conversation and I don’t feel this empathy kicking into overdrive every single time someone mentions negativity toward or about another. However, for the times that I would find myself in this situation, I’d feel like a heartless hypocrite. In my core, I know that’s a lie because I don’t know another earthly being that is more in love with humanity than I am. I have forgiven people for trauma they’ve brought on me and resumed friendships (time and time again) despite the fact that they spread gossip and lies about me. I don’t just love the loveable, I love the unloveable as well.

This isn’t a pat-myself-on-the-back blog entry. I’m admitting the fact that I’m not feeling 100% loving and full of grace all of the time and trying to figure out why it seems to tie so closely to when I’m around others. I know that the love I have can’t come from anywhere other than God. I also know that the anger I feel toward someone, after a chat with someone else, is something that I am doing wrong and something that I need to change. This is all to explain that I’ve had some fierce battles going on and I’m learning their point of entry.

Feeling the same anger and hurt that other people feel, without ever having been hurt by the person being talked about, is showing me that I’ve let my empathy get out of control. Now that I know where this dichotomy of feeling loving but not responding so loving (even though I felt that my empathizing was loving) is coming from, I know where to bring about damage control.

With God’s help, I now know that I have to start working on guarding my empathy and using it ONLY for good.