empathy - the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.
For most of my life I have struggled with empathy, or more specifically, the strong absence of empathy. Upon just a moment of reflection, the reason is pretty obvious. I have tended to be so focussed on myself, my own world, and my own problems that I just didn't care all that much about the issues or problems or joys or successes or the lives of others. As hard as this is to admit, I would have to say in all honesty that my lack of empathy also carried over to those that I viewed as closest to me. As I have gotten older, my views and perspective have slowly begun to turn more and more outward. The turning point is when my daughter was born. I found out very quickly that I would give anything to keep her protected and away from pain. When she is hurting, I tend to be hurting more. But I strive to make my attitude project outward beyond my own family. My daily prayers include the request to help keep me ever mindful of the needs of others. Some days I am more receptive and sensitive to these needs than others. I seem to proceed in fits and starts. I am not nearly as consistent as I would like to be.
Recently a friend of mine who I care about deeply has been struggling as his father went through heart surgery and a stroke during his recovery time. He has been forced to witness the deterioration of his hero and his friend. I understand his struggle and I feel a sense of his pain. However, I don't have any words to help him or to truly encourage him. My attempts to reach out seem so feeble. I pray for him regularly, but I wish I could do more. I feel like an idiot for saying this, but the fact that I am pained so much for him is a sign of growth in my life, but I would trade my growth in a second if this would help heal him. I guess this is what empathy is all about.