Empathy is the ability to recognize or understand another person’s state of mind, feeling, or emotion. And this is where the real ‘bond’ in relationships happens.
The story I want to share with you today is a true story about empathy… So take a few moments, sit down, relax, and enjoy…
Up in the Himalayan Mountains, there once lived a Tibetan Sage… He was someone who had dedicated his life to enlightenment, so he lived alone up on a mountain top and meditated all day long.
Occasionally, he would come down from the mountain into the valley to gather food and visit his relatives. One day, while down in the valley, his sister came up to him completely distraught. She was full of anger, anxiety, and sadness over her teenage boy.
Her adolescent son was a big trouble maker. He was getting in trouble at school, lashing out at his family, and engaging in self-destructive behavior. No one in the family could get through to him and he was causing the whole family to suffer.
The Sage was asked by his sister to come visit the boy and talk to him. Since he was known for his ‘enlightened consciousness’ and compassion, she figured he was the only one who could help.
So the Sage agreed and came to live with his sister for a while. He ate dinner with them, helped with the household chores, and did just about everything BUT talk to the young boy. He ended up staying there for two weeks just observing the dynamics of the household. After two whole weeks, his sister started to get angry.
“Why haven’t you had a talk with my son yet?”, she asked. The Sage simply told her that there was nothing to say.
The boy was also very confused. He knew that his Uncle was asked to come visit to have some sort of talk with him about his behavior. The Sage decided it was time to go, so he went back into his room to get his shoes. As he was sitting on the edge of his bed tying his shoelaces, the boy came and sat down in front of him.
The boy stared at his Uncle for a few moments waiting for some kind of response. The Sage looked up from tying his shoes with tears streaming down his face. He just looked into the boys eyes with love, not saying a word. The emotion was so intense, that the boy started crying, too.
The Sage cried for his nephew. He cried because he felt the pain the young boy was going through. He physically felt the feelings of being so lost, so disconnected from oneself, and feeling so unloved. The boy wasn’t misbehaving just to be malicious. He was acting out because he was in pain.
No one else in the family understood this. They all saw him as a nuisance, as someone who was causing THEM pain and suffering. They could not see past their own self-centeredness. They never stopped to empathize with where he was coming from… And this lack of understanding just made everything worse.
Staring speechlessly into the teary eyes of his Uncle, the boy felt understood for the first time in his life. He knew the Sage wasn’t crying because of his bad behavior… He was empathizing with his own suffering. For a moment, they both felt the same pain.
From that point on, the boy changed. He had been running from his own pain and acting out because he was avoiding it. His Uncle inspired him and helped him actually ‘feel’ the hurt that was inside. The unconditional love and compassion that he felt from the Sage changed his life. The Sage not only helped the boy more than anyone thought possible, but he also helped the rest of the family.
He taught them what true empathy really is…
You don’t need to be a Sage to practice empathy for others. We, as human beings, have such a deep capacity for love and compassion… I think most of us just forget it’s there sometimes.
I hope this story opened your heart a little today! When you have empathy and understanding for those in your life, your relationships will blossom.
We can do so much good for the world when we stop thinking so much about ourselves, and start putting ourselves in the shoes of those we serve.
Feel free to share this story with anyone you care about! And make sure you leave me a comment below to share your thoughts… :)