Question on empathy


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From what I have found, a good majority of what Charity is is empathy, if one can feel what the other person is feeling, they can more fully Koran with and comfort. I’ve been seeking to have empathy more and more in my life and it’s been pretty incredible and has helped me with my charity.

I have a sister-in-law that had a very difficult life, much of which is self inflicted. When I first entered the family, I had a lot of empathy for her and was always excited to talk to her and help her grow. Fast forward to 4 years later and the same problems she had when I met her have compounded. She continues to make the same mistake and her sorrow and anger just get bigger and bigger. Having empathy for her has become extremely exhausting. My wife and I have avoided being around her because we can’t take the complaining and the hollow “self help” conversations she wants to have.

So for the question. How does someone maintain. Charity in a situation where is is exhausting and stressful to do so, and there doesn’t seem to be an end to it?

Is the answer to continue just more empathy and patience? 

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For your situation: you still love your SIL, and still care for her.

But that doesn't mean you need to sit around for hallow conversations or take her stress on yourself-- it's HER stress, not yours.  You can love a person and not have this conversation (or any conversations). Loving others doesn't mean you neglect healthy boundaries and self-care.  

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To be honest, I already think you are on the right path @Fether. Most people, myself included, would probably just walk away and spend their mental energy on other things. 
 

@Jane_Doe is correct, and while I can’t add much the one thing I will say is that 95% of LDS are so caring and decent that they sometimes put themselves in emotional harm to help others. I’m not saying to cut this woman out of your life, but be careful to put your needs and those of your immediate family first. 

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3 hours ago, Fether said:

 

So for the question. How does someone maintain. Charity in a situation where is is exhausting and stressful to do so, and there doesn’t seem to be an end to it?

Is the answer to continue just more empathy and patience? 

I suspect that there are other ways to show charity and emphaty that still provide your sister in law with love and support without actually putting yourself into an exhaustive and stressful situation. It might be something as simple as sending her a scriptural text message each day, it might be as big as paying for her to undertake some form of counselling or therapy, or it could be a little more indirect by providing support to those who are supporting your sister in law. It could involve undertaking some study and research to better understand your sister in law's condition/behaviour. Increased understanding of something or someone often improves our ability to be charitable and empathic of/about/towards that something or someone.

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5 hours ago, Fether said:

So for the question. How does someone maintain. Charity in a situation where is is exhausting and stressful to do so, and there doesn’t seem to be an end to it?

Hi there.  I shouldn't share all the half-dozen or so personal stories where I've struggled to have love and charity for difficult people.  One committed suicide after a lifetime of self-absorbed borderline narcissism, one died in their '40's after a lifetime of drug and alcohol abuse, one did 5 years for child molestation, one enabled and ignored the molestation.  Everyone else is pretty easy, after those.   Anyway, I may have learned enough to address your situation specifically:

- Since she's your wife's sister, the closeness and time spent on the relationship is largely up to your wife.  It's ok to love people from a distance.  Does she know that?  Does she have inappropriate guilt?

- It's absolutely critical that you place your relationship with your wife, above that of SIL.  You and wife are sometimes avoiding?  What's the problem with that?  Having a pure love of Christ for someone, does not mean you have to be specifically close with them.  

- A healthy relationship requires healthy stuff from both parties, not just one.  If SIL can't manage to rise to the level of someone it is healthy to spend time with, then it's your job to protect your wife from this threat to her health.  Let that sink in for a while. 

- I realize my personal experiences are extreme, and this might be extreme advice.  If SIL is just plain old annoying and exhausting and sad, then see her like a few times a year.  Gear up for it, endure through it, recover after it.  Do what you can to love and empathize from a distance.  

- Healthy boundaries are nice.  "We love ya sis, but I have to level with you - it's just exhausting listening to you gripe about how hard your life is, when you bring all this crap on yourself.  We need to make something clear - we're always happy to see ya, but we're done being part of your pity party.  The next time you start that up, we're leaving.  Happy to come back for another visit and try again in a month."   Do you know it's possible to love and have charity for someone, while at the same time saying something like this?  Do you know you can kneel at the feet of your Master on judgment day, and answer for your choices regarding this person, and stand spotless and blameless relaying a story like that?  That's some "well done thou good and faithful servant" stuff right there.  The trick is, it needs to be your wife's boundaries that you help with.  Not your boundaries you impose on both wife and SIL.

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Maybe it's just me but I don't think charity or empathy ever cause stress. Charity and empathy exist totally independent of any expected reciprocation or reaction from the intended receiver. So if stress is present it's for another reason. My guess, and I could be wrong, is that it's coming from a mistaken understanding of your responsibility to your sister in law.

God loves all of his children, even those he knows he will cast out at the last day. And so he helps them progress as much as they are willing to. Does this cause sadness? Yes. Sadness and charity and empathy are compatible. But God does not stress about it and neither should we. 

It's not your responsibility to save your sister in law. It's not even your responsibility to help your sister in law, as that requires something you have no control over: her accepting your help. So my recommendation would be to ask the Lord what He requires of you in this situation, do it, and then stand still (mentally and emotionally) and have faith in Him who will do everything that can be done to help her.

Edited by laronius
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19 hours ago, Fether said:

From what I have found, a good majority of what Charity is is empathy, if one can feel what the other person is feeling, they can more fully Koran with and comfort. I’ve been seeking to have empathy more and more in my life and it’s been pretty incredible and has helped me with my charity.

I have a sister-in-law that had a very difficult life, much of which is self inflicted. When I first entered the family, I had a lot of empathy for her and was always excited to talk to her and help her grow. Fast forward to 4 years later and the same problems she had when I met her have compounded. She continues to make the same mistake and her sorrow and anger just get bigger and bigger. Having empathy for her has become extremely exhausting. My wife and I have avoided being around her because we can’t take the complaining and the hollow “self help” conversations she wants to have.

So for the question. How does someone maintain. Charity in a situation where is is exhausting and stressful to do so, and there doesn’t seem to be an end to it?

Is the answer to continue just more empathy and patience? 

I would say acknowledge the Lord's grace in giving you charity and whatever else you may need to minister to her according to His will.

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I have a different opinion.  For whatever reason, I am not well wired for empathy.  I see things as choices.  This applies to myself as well as others.  If I make a bad choice - I suffer.  I have discovered that I have suffering even when I repent.  I expect that everyone that makes a bad choice will feel pain (emotionally if nothing else) for their bad choices.  I cannot make choices for anyone.  I see no benefit in telling anyone (especially myself) that there is any benefit to a bad choice beyond repenting of it.  I see nothing good in telling someone their bad choices are okay because everybody makes bad choices.  I believe it is best to help people make good choices.  I see no reason to recommend anything else.

I realize that some can lovingly reach those I am unable to reach, regardless of how much I care about them.  If I am despised for recommending better choices - I do not see how that is my fault.  But at the same time there is no benefit that I cut anyone off for their choices or harbor anger towards them for their bad choices - even when their bad choices does me harm.  I should always be kind and forgiving to everyone.

I decided to add something - there is also no logical reason to tell someone they are making bad choices when they prefer the bad choice.  The choice is theirs to make - regardless of their choice we should love them.  Loving someone is also a choice - a good choice we all should be willing to make.  Our love for others should not be predicated on their choices but I have found it easer to choose to love someone making good choices.

 

The Traveler

Edited by Traveler
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On 1/3/2022 at 9:53 AM, Traveler said:

I have a different opinion.  For whatever reason, I am not well wired for empathy.  I see things as choices.  This applies to myself as well as others.  If I make a bad choice - I suffer.  I have discovered that I have suffering even when I repent.  I expect that everyone that makes a bad choice will feel pain (emotionally if nothing else) for their bad choices.  I cannot make choices for anyone.  I see no benefit in telling anyone (especially myself) that there is any benefit to a bad choice beyond repenting of it.  I see nothing good in telling someone their bad choices are okay because everybody makes bad choices.  I believe it is best to help people make good choices.  I see no reason to recommend anything else.

I realize that some can lovingly reach those I am unable to reach, regardless of how much I care about them.  If I am despised for recommending better choices - I do not see how that is my fault.  But at the same time there is no benefit that I cut anyone off for their choices or harbor anger towards them for their bad choices - even when their bad choices does me harm.  I should always be kind and forgiving to everyone.

I decided to add something - there is also no logical reason to tell someone they are making bad choices when they prefer the bad choice.  The choice is theirs to make - regardless of their choice we should love them.  Loving someone is also a choice - a good choice we all should be willing to make.  Our love for others should not be predicated on their choices but I have found it easer to choose to love someone making good choices.

 

The Traveler

In my opinion, the human brain is wired to be self centered, survival minded, worried about our own well being and those around us the most. This is part of the main test we face in this life to choose to love our neighbor as our self or not.  If we make it to the Celestial Kingdom, those individuals will have mastered the ability to have 100% empathy for everyone else around them. This is how they will all share in the accomplishments of everyone and their glory will be eternal as they take on the glory of others achievements.  We are told that God's glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. This means that God is 100% empathetic to that achievement as if He is doing it Himself, therefore it adds to His glory.  The result of being 100% empathetic to others is the ability to take on all that God has done in the past and receive all that will happen, then we can be eternal beings without beginning or end. 

The test is to see our underlying character, do we like the mortal self which is self centered, dealing with whatever is in front of his or do we prefer to be spiritually minded and can extend ourselves beyond our own limited experience, literally incorporating others experiences into our own.  Or do we want to be like Satan who could not share his glory with anyone but himself. That is the test. Empathy is the center of that test. 

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