In a recent article for a natural magazine that I happened to pick up at my local vitamin store, there was a description of a book called The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People, written by Judith Orloff, M.D. The author explains that an empath is someone who is highly sensitive and empathic. “Bingo!” I thought. “That’s me for sure!” According to this author, empaths absorb other people’s emotions. That explains why I cry so easily when I see emotional or sad events unfold on the TV or in real life. Take the show, Undercover Boss. I need an entire box of Kleenex for that one! Now, in her book, Dr. Orloff offers self-protection strategies for empaths. But I quickly asked myself, “Do I really want to work on not being an empathic person?”
Empaths are sensitive people who tend to feel emotions more deeply than others. This explains why they are more emotionally reactive. Characteristically, empaths show more empathy and concern for their friends’ problems than most people do. They also work well as team members because they are always analyzing the pros and cons of every decision and are always trying to understand other people’s points of view. Other typical characteristics of empaths are that they cry more easily, have above-average manners, and hate violence (meaning they will never watch a violent movie or TV show).
If you are an overly sensitive person, this can cause significant problems in your relationships. Sometimes people tell me, “You are overly sensitive.” Often they ask me, “Why did you take that so personally?” In every conversation, I have a tendency to remember the one negative word that was uttered and dwell on that negative point, overlooking the many positive words spoken within the same conversation.
However, I’ve come to the conclusion that I would rather be an empathic person than the alternative. I am willing to have sympathy and empathy for other people even at the cost of my feelings being hurt. 1 Peter 4:10 states, “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” I believe my sensitivity, my being an empathic person, is a good gift from the Lord!