Empathy is about listening quietly so you may gauge the extent of the other person’s grief. Telling them to be strong or that they are overreacting is the worst form of empathy. In fact, even worse is when we say something like, “That’s nothing. Listen to what happened to me the other day.” The most important thing to remember about all the virtues is that they are not merely emotions, they are behaviour. We don’t always have to feel compassionate or empathic to show those emotions. A good meditator inching towards divinity can adopt a behaviour that shows compassion and empathy.
You don’t have to feel a certain way to act a certain way. The reverse is more practical and effective; start acting a certain way and you’ll start feeling that way. Empathy is an act before it becomes an emotion. It is, however, not possible to develop a sense of empathy without being sensitive towards other around us. In fact, it’s hard to practice any virtue without having a degree of sensitivity. If you observe those who act most selfishly, often you’ll discover that it’s not that they are bad or ignoble, they just lack sensitivity.
You can’t be a giving person unless you develop sensitivity. You can give someone grief or you can give them joy, it all depends on how sensitive you are towards them, their loves, their needs. So often, we take the presence of others in our life for granted. We joke around, we make fun, we share laughter. All of which is okay but when we do do insensitively, we don’t just hurt them but we hurt our own existence too. The spiritual being in us takes a hit when we choose to be insensitive.
A good meditator is always mindful of his throats, actions and words. One of the most beautiful rewards of meditation is that it makes you more sensitive. It’s a natural by-product. You feel what others are feeling around you. The more spiritual you are, the more sensitive you will be. Empathy, love, compassion and charity come naturally to a sensitive person. Sensitivity is knowing the difference between being emphatic and being empathic. As they say, resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant with the weak and wrong. Sometime in your life, you will have been all of these.
Reference : A Million thoughts. Om Swami.