Learning How to Forgive Through Empathy

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I have talked about forgiveness a lot here at Spiral Revolutions, but it was not until recently that the key in learning how to forgive came into focus for me.  The trick to unlocking it is through empathy and understanding where your fellow human beings are coming from.  So first, let’s take a look at the meaning of empathy.

forgive-through-empathy

Empathy Definition

Before diving into the nitty gritty of the perspective I would like to share with you today, let’s take a look at what Dictionary.com has to say about the word:  Empathy.

Empathy-Definition

As you can see, it is the psychological identification with experiencing of what others are, or another way of wording it is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.  This has always been a stronger skill for me, being able to see the story from the other party’s perspective, to know and understand their journey to this point.

Putting Yourself in Their Shoes

put-yourself-in-their-shoes
being able to put yourself in other’s shoes, will help you to feel empathy.

This is something that I think a good many of us overlook in life and it is of vital importance that we stop that bad habit.  We are all on a journey through life here on Earth and understanding that will allow you to learn how to see other’s perspectives and to have a better feeling of where they are coming from.

So how do you put yourself in someone else’s shoes?  Well first off it comes through respecting them as a person and knowing that their journey has led them up to this point, whatever it may be.  This practice aligns closely with the Golden Rule and respecting others as you would expect that they respect you.  So let’s take a look at a couple steps to help you:

  1. Listen – This is an extremely important first step in being able to see the other party’s perspective, you just have to listen to it.  Allow the person to tell you their story and pay attention to the details.
  2. Respect – Listen to the story as a whole, don’t interrupt unless you are asking pertinent questions to their story.
  3. Empathize – As they tell you the story, imagine that you are them or the things that happened to them instead happened to you.

Step three is where the magic is all at.  By putting yourself in their position or imagining the story happening to yourself, you will be able to have empathy for their journey and where they are at in life.  This will help you to understand why they have made the decisions that they have made or why they are feeling the way that they are.  Now you have the key.

Key to Forgiveness

key-in-hand
Empathy is the Key to Forgiveness.

With the key in hand, now you are primed and ready to be much more forgiving in your life.  When you can put yourself in the other party’s shoes and know and understand where they are coming from, it makes forgiveness all the easier to accomplish.  Let’s take a look at an example:

When my youngest had first started school I remember him telling me about a kid in his class that was having a hard time with school.  He cried a lot and was being picked on by the other kids.  Alex didn’t like the kid because of the way that he acted too.

We discussed the situation and I told him that he needs to forgive that behavior and show him some compassion.  Try to understand why he is having a tough time and help him to get past it instead of not liking him for the way he was acting.  I also encouraged him to speak up in his defense if other people were picking on him as bullying would only make things worse.

Fast forward a few years and now the two are best friends and love to hang out and play.  The both embrace their weird side (yeah… my apple didn’t fall far from the tree) and have a lot fun together.  The bullying vanished and now they are just going through a more normal school life.

To see a young boy sit and really think about all of the cause and effects going on to create the situation that he was in was just tremendous for me.  To hear him tell me that he understands what I am saying and to be able to apply that knowledge to help him and those around him was just very humbling for me.

meaning-of-empathyThis was not my first rodeo with helping my children in dealing with bullies though.  My oldest son who is 11 years ahead of youngest also had many issues with bullies in school.  We had very similar discussions when he was younger and I was able to help him progress through it in much the same way.  I still remember him telling me that people stopped picking on him after following through with what we had discussed.

Why is this All Important?

wheel-of-karma
We are all on a journey and we all have our own wheel of karma to work with.

Again, to get back to the basics of it, it is because we are all on a similar journey in that we were born and are living here on Earth.  Sure the stories are different for each of us, but that is also the reason that it is so important.  We all need to respect that we are on our journey to learn and elevate ourselves to a higher plane of existence.  We all have karma that we need to burn off, whether that is from this life or prior ones, it does not matter.

What does matter though is that we break the vicious cycles that many of us are trapped in today.  The violence and hate in the world will not go away until we learn how to empathize and forgive each other.  In doing so we break the cycles and give ourselves the opportunity to start fresh.

Forgiving others also helps in the release of “bad” karma that needs to be burned off.  While you can’t always let the other party know that you forgave them, the universe knows and things will work out as needed so that we can all progress together to a higher vibration.  That being said though, the less “bad” karma that we need to go through as a whole the better off we will be moving forward.

Share Your Thoughts

Please share your thoughts and perspective with us.
Please share your thoughts and perspective with us.

First please allow me to thank you for stopping by today, I hope that my content here has helped you on your journey through life.  I would like to ask you to share examples from your story with us so that we can continue to build a better and more encompassing picture here.  With each story added we put ourselves in a better position to help the next person that stops by.

Also, if you enjoyed the perspective that I shared here today, you might also enjoy some of the other articles that I have posted here:

Have a great rest of your day!

James W D
james@spiralrevolutions.com

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6 Replies to “Learning How to Forgive Through Empathy”

  1. Forgiveness has been the biggest struggle of my life. I’m not very good at it.

    A spiritual teacher I often turn to reminds me that my reluctance to forgive causes me to accumulate unhappiness.

    I know this is true and I feel the burden on it, but I wake every day to the old trauma.

    • Gary it strikes me that you have not forgiven yourself yet. Often even when the source is from someone else, there is still forgiveness that needs to be done for one self.

      For example let’s say someone caused you harm and you got really upset about it. Afterwards you forgave the other party but still seem to have some anger or other negative emotion about the situation. This is typically where you need to forgive yourself for allowing yourself to get upset and become unbalanced.

      It is only natural for us to get upset when things are done against us. It is vastly important though that we remember that forgiveness must be for all parties involved though.

      If you would like to discuss further, please always feel free to contact me directly via email.

  2. Though-provoking post.

    There are things, people in my life that I am struggling to come to terms with. Not that I don’t forgive them, but I haven’t been able to let go of what they did to me.

    I’ve tried to empathise with those who hurt me but never succeed to accepting what they did… I’ve been thinking it depends on the situation, for example it would not make you feel better to empathise with a sadist, wouldn’t it? Or a narcissist?

    To say it was okay for them to do what they did, to sabotage someone else emotionally and physically because they want to do it, feeling their emotions, empathising with them just make me realise how… disgusting they are.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Cheers,
    Anh

    • When the wounds are fresh it is the hardest time to forgive, especially when you were really hurt by whatever happened. That being said though, it is these times that help to galvanize who you are as a person.

      Some of the worst people in my life I am now very thankful for having encountered. I am more respectful and more ethical in my life because of their lack of it towards me. They have helped me to define who I want to be and made me stronger.

      Think of it this way, when we break a bone it really hurts. However when it heals it grows back stronger than it was before. This is the same concept. We get hurt by people and their actions, but we have all of the opportunity to learn and grow from the incident making us stronger.

      Remember we come to this world to live through strife as it is what elevates our learning process. If everything in life here were easy and there was no pain, our growth would be stifled and hard to come by. We have chosen to experience these difficulties so that we can learn from them.

      Lastly, remember that holding onto anger towards someone is like holding onto a hot coal, you are the one that gets burned. Be the positive example and break the cycle of violence and ill will. Don’t reduce yourself to their level.

  3. Very nice article on how to forgive through empathy, do you think people in our society today has lost some of our empathy to understand other people?

    I always try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, we are not living that person’s life so we do not know what they might be experiencing.

    • There is a certain aspect of our society that has lost touch with who we are as a whole. With that they have lost the empathy needed to stay connected with each other and thus we are driven apart.

      Giving people benefit of the doubt is certainly going down this road. You are certainly right in that we don’t know what the experience was to bring them to the current point. However, that is the point – to understand that there is experience there and to respect that.

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