Empathy and A Course in Miracles

I have become curious lately: when I am judgmental towards another (angry, fearful, vengeful et cetera), why that and not empathy?

That is, when someone is behaving in a way that offends or troubles me, why do I see only the misbehaving other? Why do I not see myself?

When I am judgmental in a way that creates inner conflict, it hurts me. Sometimes the pain is obvious and intense, sometimes subtle and mild – but there is always a sense of being hurt or unsettled.

It often feels to me like rejection: like being pushed away from the fire or out of the cave, like being asked to walk out into the desert alone. “You don’t belong with us – go away.”

And yet, I am the one doing the pushing – I am the one saying (interiorly or otherwise) to the other, “you don’t belong – get away.”

Is this clear?

Say the man at the register asks me twice if I brought my own bags, rolls his eyes when I say I forgot, sighs audibly pulling out a paper bag for my food. I am embarrassed at my ecological oversight, angry to at being called out on it in public, and insulted that this young man would speak and behave this way to someone at least a quarter century older than he is . . .

Is this clear? My feelings are hurt by his behavior so I judge him: I cast him out. This is not how people behave in the world.

Yet I am the one feeling the pain. I am the one feeling alone. I am the one who is hurt. Why?

Because I reacted with judgment rather than responding with empathy, and in doing so I endorsed the separation between self and other. Of course it hurts me. That is what the separation is.

What would that scene resemble if I felt empathy? If I laid judgment aside and empathized? That is, what if I perceived the other judging me and saw only my own capacity to judge others and, knowing how much that judgment hurts and how it preserves and nurtures the separative life, opted simply to let it pass. Perhaps I thank the cashier for reminding me of the importance of conserving precious resources. Perhaps I simply stand quietly by, allowing my own reactions (my own judgments) to dissipate.

Empathy is just a way of seeing the other as our self – not in a mystical or magical way. Just in a very matter-of-fact way. Whatever they’re doing wrong, we see how we do that too sometimes and in some ways. We see how, in this sense, we are truly one mind.

Neither your brother or yourself can be attacked alone. But neither can accept a miracle instead without the other being blessed by it, and healed of pain . . . The power to heal the Son of God is given you because he must be one with you (T-21.VI.7:1-2, 4).

When this “one mind” – this shared mind – is seen clearly, it is easy to see how judgment (executed through projection and denial) hurts both us and the people we so casually label as “other.” And so the motivation to do things differently also arises.

You are your brother’s savior. He is yours (T-21.VI.9:1-2).

Salvation is a way of thinking – or, more accurately, of relating to thought, in which that which is not separate is not perceived as separate. What follows in the realm of action is somewhat beside the point.

In the example of the cashier, what I do in response to the cashier is not really the point. The point is noticing my own judgment, my own lack of empathy, and being willing to have that undone, and giving attention to it so that it can be undone. Right there in the moment.

That you and your brother are joined is your salvation; the gift of Heaven, not the gift of fear . . . The Son of God is always blessed as one (T-21.VI.8:1, 10:1).

When we are empathetic – when we perceive with clarity our shared mind, and tend to it as we would tend our own child – then we become grateful. Gratitude begets peace, and peace begets yet more gratitude. That is a nice cycle to offer the world. And it it ours to both give and receive.

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Mike April 17, 2017, 7:44 pm

    Turning the table on the “reality” of our emotions is the Escher-flip! Thanks for another reinforcement. The seeming “truth” of being pushed out or pushing out is just in the feeling, and yet the thoughts somehow hide that fact. Although the fact there is just separating, not even attacking/defending, does collapse those thoughts to a manageable one. Even to ask the question “why do i …”, is just separating myself into a conceptualized future self, trying to prepare defenses for the projectile I’ve unconsciously just launched! And so loving mySelf right now I disarm and embrace THIS conscious child, knowing this part, right now, is essential to God’s plan for salvation. Thank for such a warm fire, and for inviting me into your cave.

    • Sean April 18, 2017, 9:26 am

      Thank you for reading, Mike – the fire is always on and you and everyone else is always welcome! Thanks for that close read. Nice take on the conceptualized self that inheres in the question “why do I . . . ” I like that. And yes, it all happens without our noticing, so noticing – giving attention – can itself just be such a helpful practice, just to see what’s going on. We don’t really need to fix anything so much as see it clearly, which is itself healing.

  • Mike April 17, 2017, 8:13 pm

    I realized I glossed over “empathy”. I will notice “my own lack of empathy” as a reminder that I am perceiving that which is not separate, as separate. And to allow empathy to be used to remind me of the Gift of One, as you have already done.

    • Sean April 18, 2017, 9:26 am

      🙂

    • Sean April 18, 2017, 9:27 am

      Glossing over is one of my specialties . . . I hear you. 🙂

    • Sean April 18, 2017, 9:29 am

      Glossing over is one of my specialties . . . I hear you.

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