It has been said that centuries ago, a skeptical man visited two scholars.
First, he came to a very respected sage and said: “If you teach me the entire Torah while I stand on one foot, I will convert myself and will study it.”
The scholar R. Shammai felt deeply insulted and chased the skeptical man away.
The same man decided to visit another sage and pose the same challenge.
Standing on one foot, the skeptical waited for the answer.
The second scholar R. Hillel said to the skeptic, “What is hateful to you, do not do to others. This is the entire Torah. All the rest are comments; now, go and study it.”
What is the relationship between this old story and Empathy? Everything.
Empathy is a form of Love, a way of living, that profoundly influences the way you see and respond to people, and to your inner dialogues as well.
Was Rabbi Shammai, the first sage to be consulted, wrong? No, he was not. Could he be wiser? There is no simple answer to that.
Certainly, Empathy provided R. Hillel with that kind of wisdom and compassion that enabled him to be above insult, above pride.
He could see beyond and above that man and his daring question.
Empathy has this special effect to protect you from being easily hurt and has this wonderful power to make you happier.
As a leader, Empathy is the quintessence that separates you from being an outdated and flat boss and being an inspiring leader.
In relationships, Empathy is the amalgamating fire of every healthy relationship.
Empathy allows you to transition to different phases, to persevere in a relationship when things are not so perfect, to forgive and be forgiven.
Over so many years, I have had students from all levels of meditation experience seeking to become more Empathetic. Brilliant clients with vast experience in leadership in large companies, entrepreneurship, sports, and arts who have lived and worked across the globe. Each one singular, each one with rich point of views.
Regardless work experience, wealth, religion, or non-religion beliefs, sexual orientation, political views, cultural background, age or gender, we all seek the same: to love and be loved, to be accepted.
Therefore, Empathy is so important. It is exactly what enables you to feel that love you have been longing for.
It is true that Empathy is not an easy thing to learn or to teach.
For some people is a natural talent, for others is something to be developed, and for others is a mystery to be revealed.
You can always learn and magnify your empathetic qualities.
In any case, Empathy requires practice. Lots of practice!
To exercise Empathy is to detach from and set aside any prejudice or ‘filters’ that build walls and contribute to misunderstandings between yourself and others, between yourself and a best friend, a son or daughter, parents, colleagues, or acquaintances.
Being empathetic means connecting to, understanding another’s gestures, pauses, expressions, words, tone of voice, breathing patterns, or even their silence.
That does not mean that you need to agree with the other person’s point of view or that you will suffer or experience exactly what they are experiencing.
It means that you get it. You comprehend it.
When you truly feel Empathy, you are successful in establishing a connection between you and other people.
Rest assured that you will not become weepy or overwhelmed with their emotions.
Quite the opposite.
When you practice leaving your own fort, and its trenches, and going to someone else’s place, you come back to yours with stronger self-esteem and sense of identity.
Isn’t it interesting?
To me this is fascinating. You gain healthier, stronger self-esteem when you genuinely see and listen to other people.
You gain control over your life exactly when you are not afraid of losing it.
It is by being vulnerable that you become stronger.
You, as I, have had experiences where you feel you cannot share your thoughts to a friend because he will not get you or he will interrupt you before you finish a sentence.
If you have ever felt that you just need to be seen and listened to, and you have a person sitting before you, nodding but clearly far away from the conversation you are trying to have, you know how it is to feel as lonely as a Don Quixote, talking to windmills, feeling a bit crazy and so different than others that it seems you will never find your place in the world.
But then, once in a while there is a bright soul, someone that is actually present and there for you, someone who gets you.
When this happens, all your pieces come together, and you never forget that feeling of being genuinely acknowledged, accepted, and understood.
Imagine when more of us can make each other feel the same! The world will be such a wonderful place. “It will be,” I say, because I haven’t lost hope that I will live to see this happening to more of us, and I am here to make it so.
If you are here to make a difference, to impact someone’s life, or to impact the entire world, know that being empathetic does not mean being perfect.
It does not mean that you will never feel betrayed or hurt, that you will never hurt someone else.
Being empathetic is itself a human affair, just as filled with gifts and flaws as any other experience, but it is these very gifts and flaws that make Empathy possible.
You might use your Empathy and even so decide to chase someone away. Away from a room, away from a conversation, or away from your life.
You might occasionally be the one standing on a foot making daring questions, or the sage who embraces other people.
You may very well bring peace to the Don Quixote within you, riding a horse on your inner landscape, resting and enjoying your windmills, saving your lance to use it when it is really needed, loving yourself, and conquering the world inside you, all while loving others.
To you I say: ‘Ride on!’ Life with Empathy might not be as dramatic as an opera, but it is far more joyful and fantastic.
Sending you an abundance of Love and Light,