I know it stems from a good place. When I see my family, people in my church, or people in the world who are suffering, my heart almost feels so full of empathy/sympathy that it threatens to overwhelm me emotionally.
A few months ago when I was seeing a counselor for issues related to why I turn to food, he made a brief observation about my thought patterns that really stuck with me. He pointed out that I have catastrophic thinking. And by that what he meant was that when I am faced with a problem, whether it be my own problem or someone else’s, my mind’s natural inclination is to jump ahead 10 steps to the worst possible scenario. “Well, if I don’t fix this problem then ____ will happen. And if that happens then ____ will happen.” And so on and so on until eventually I am all worked up about what could possibly happen way down the line before the issue has even really begun.
Stressful situations are going to happen. They’re going to happen to me. They’re going to happen to my loved ones. They are going to happen everywhere in the world. Some of these stressful things I am going to be able to help with. Many (if not most) are going to be way beyond my control. Since the idea of catastrophic thinking was introduced to me, I have actually been able to pretty successfully put the clamp down on irrational thoughts before they arise – simply by acknowledging that my emotions are not fact. My gut isn’t proof of anything. And what I FEEL like doing does not make it the right thing to do.
As a matter of fact, more often than not, the best response is a slow one. A good response is not made during the climax of emotion immediately following a PSE (particularly stressful event – and yes I just made that up). A good response usually requires you to deny your fleshly desires, just breathe, and wait on the Lord to direct your path.
Listen all you mother (and father) hens. I get it. I know the panicky feeling that rises up in your chest and makes you want to run headlong into a situation and try to hammer it out as quickly as possible. But I have also learned (the hard way) that 99% of the time, hammering does more harm than good.
Just breathe. Free yourself from the responsibility of having to fix everything. If you have to sleep on it, then sleep on it. Don’t pressure yourself to act immediately in every situation. Patience is a virtue. Sometimes just empathizing fixes most of what is broken.
Empathy is a gift. Don’t let it also be your curse.
“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9
“Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:6
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” 2 Timothy 3:16
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Romans 12:12
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4