I really adored Mr. Cogar's thoughts on empathy. It certainly has not been something I set out for in my life as a special interest to cultivate, but the more spiritually evolved I become the more empathetic I become. Empathy requires that we reserve judgment. It was a huge moment for me when I realized I could be very disappointed for a person without being disappointed in a person.
When we recognize the part of us that is spirit/high power/God, it makes it impossible not to see the spirit part in others regardless of how at odds it is with the human part at the time. Humans are so messy. Driven by countless fears and an egoic mind set that insist we be right at all times, we are all, ALL of us very hard to love at times. I guess my own definition for empathy is to be willing to see the spirit trying in someone regardless of their circumstance.
There are different types of empathy and they boil down sometimes to the difference in being "store bought" or "homemade". The "Store bought" variety can be categorized when you acknowledge struggle of another from a brain/cognitive point of view. The "Homemade" variety is when you live in a state of connection to spirit and gratitude that your spirit is producing it's own source of Empathy, the emotional, spiritual connection with others.
Both a valid and both are good, but those who find their way to an empathetic state of being by thinking themselves there, will never experience the power of connection with the story of others through the spirit- empathetic awareness. There has long been detailed the people who take musical lessons and learn the fingering and the counting of the notes but never ever are able to convey the emotions of the pieces they play. There is a component to spirit that is lacking in them. Their dedication and study still is hard work that must have acknowledgment but they cannot interpret the passion of the piece the way that others do without trying.
Not everyone has the capacity to feel the plight or passion of others. Being empathetic and compassion is very difficult in the aspect that if you don't learn how to manage what I believe to be spiritual gifts, they can easily overwhelm you.
Every year I get a little angry at all the people trying to bust the door down of the Mission on 80 trying to serve "Thanksgiving and Christmas" to the unfortunate. If I worked there I would ask them, "would you consider June 3 or August 6th, we have all the compassionate folks we need for Christmas and Thanksgiving". "Can u still find it important to serve some Parker House Dinner Rolls when it isn't an act designed by you to make you feel better about yourself while doing the least amount possible".
That is an example of "Store Bought" empathy. It's too planned and calculated. Real empathy is only possible for those of us who know that, "What we have is enough", "Giving you a break" won't leave me without one, "Recognizing your struggle", won't sweep me into it and all of us have monsters two inches from our tails and most of us just no how to disguise the panic better than others.
It's long been said that we are spiritual beings having a human experience and I know personally speaking when I operate from spirit, I have no trouble at all honoring and acknowledging the struggle and pain of others. It is only when my ego and "human" concerns overshadow my gratitude that I forget that judgment is not necessary. I lose nothing, NOTHING by acknowledging your struggle and I gain a connection to spirit that cannot be found any other way.
People want to go immediately to the sick or homeless when they picture struggle. I've been aware and lucky enough to have learned to look wherever I am. I know a single mother starting to work full time for the first time in years. She's frightened and she's doing it. I know a mother who's two children are at an age where they clearly see their father can't stop drinking. I know a teenager who has to go live with relatives he didn't even know he had in order to stay out of foster care. I know old people who can't afford their medicine. I know a young girl who just realized she is obese when the kids at school pointed it out. I know several people who work as hard as long as they can and they can't pay their bills. The stories of the human condition fill the pages and the hours of the history of the world. I haven't forfeited a thing by having concern for them.
I lose nothing by seeing and validating your struggle. The Ego says I need to fix the struggle but the spirit only asks me to acknowledge
Complex and alternately beautiful laws of God come in to play when I try to explain this inexpiable truth, we are all connected. When I honor your struggle with acknowledgement I honor my own, loving you when you make it very difficult to even like you, I gain my own self acceptance. When I honor the part of God in you, the part of God in me expands exponentially.
Gratitude, empathy and compassion are the three ingredients that give me a good life today. They keep my spirit growing, my human side (ego) in check and they make me feel almost on a daily basis, it's all worth showing up for.
I'll end with this. When I was young I had a Beagle. It' was a sweet sweet dog without a vicious bone in it's body. One day it got hit by a car and my dad rushed out to help it and it tried to bite my dad's hand off. When we are led by pain and fear, real or imagined, all of us, are very hard to love. Empathy AND Compassion help me look beyond the ugliness of pain and see a spirit in crisis.
That helps me get through my day.