On our forgiveness path, we examine many aspects of our emotional life. For instance, what is the difference between sympathy and empathy, and how do they fit into a life dedicated to generosity and healing?

We are often taught that sympathy is the same thing as love. "Oh, you poor thing!" equals "I really care about you!" My mother taught me that from the time I was about 4 years old. Agreeing that sympathy is love became the normal way that we interacted with each other. This kind of expression is true in many families. We learn early that showing concern is a way to form a connection with the people we love.

Yet when we have sympathy for someone, it's not respectful of who and what s/he is. We might be giving caring action or words, yet we think that people in general are victims of their circumstances. In order to receive sympathy, therefore, there must be something terribly wrong with them and the situation.

Caring actions and words are always welcome and appropriate, but what worldview do we hold when we give them? If we relegate others (and ourselves) into victims of an uncaring world, then our words and actions don't have a healing effect - in fact, quite the opposite. These thoughts create a distortion and an imbalance. Sympathy actually lowers the energetic vibration of our interaction together, because it is based on falsehood instead of truth. There isn't much room for real love to enter.

With sympathy, there is no respect for our inner divinity, which everyone shares. Instead, there is a belief that our outer circumstance is, in fact, reality. That's a mistake. The spiritual text A Course in Miracles states, "I am not a victim of the world I see." (WB 48)

When this error is corrected, then we realize that we are in fact all equal beings, no matter what the circumstances. With empathy, we can reach out with compassion to simply join with our friend, to support with love while accepting whatever the situation is in the moment. Empathy doesn't need the drama, excuses or pity that come with sympathy. Instead, we open to the possibility that there is a perfection beyond what we can perceive, and we are all sharing it all the time - in sickness or health, pleasure or pain.

Once we have made the shift from a world of sympathy to a world of empathy, it is much easier to find forgiveness in any situation. When we know ourselves and others as eternal beings who came to Earth to participate in a classroom rather than a courtroom, we are eager to find the treasures hidden in all circumstances. The gifts may take time to be revealed, but in the meantime we trust in the perfection that takes us beyond "victim land". We expand Love rather than recycle anger, fear and pain. We end our agreement that "those people are terrible for what they did to you, you poor thing"; instead, we choose honest reflection and extend dignity to every person involved, no matter what has taken place....even if this is very difficult to do.

On our path of forgiveness, we live a generous life full of empathy, compassion, humor, and joy. We begin to commune with ourselves and each other, because we no longer construct walls between "the good people" and "the bad people".

We actually begin to enjoy each other. We can share a smile, a wink, a sunset, or a rainbow. We connect with each other because it's simply more fun to live on a planet where we share the good times, the medium times, and the bad times - all of it.

Envisioning a world in which we all live this way comes from our own desire. We do it simply because it's natural. There is no neediness, and no feeling of being drained or exhausted. Instead, there's a playfulness, so that when we travel away from home across the street or across the world, we're recognizing equality in all beings. We feel safe to stop and chat, look people in the eye, and share love, art and beauty with them.

We can be more generous with ourselves and others by giving empathy instead of sympathy. Our forgiveness path requires that we make the switch - consciously - so that we can respect our inner light and reach toward it, past our circumstances in life. Instead of saying to each other, "Oh, poor baby!" we say, "I know you can wake up out of this, no matter what it is." Sounds like real friendship to me.

“Lay forgiveness on your mind and let all fear be gently laid aside, that love may find its rightful place in you.”

A Course in Miracles (T198)

Author's Bio: 

Ana Holub, MA teaches people the joy of forgiveness, showing them how to forgive, and guiding them into a direct experience of peace. She is a forgiveness counselor, mediator and peace educator based in Northern California, USA. Over the past twenty years, she has worked with individuals and couples, government, prison inmates and at-risk families, non-profit organizations, businesses, and schools.

Ana holds a BA in Peace Studies, and an MA in Dispute Resolution from Pepperdine University School of Law. She is also a certified Domestic Violence counselor and Radical Forgiveness coach. She has spent years on the front lines of healing trauma, teaching her clients practical skills to improve their experience of joy, harmony, strength and empowerment.

For more information and a free consultation, contact anaholub.com