Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am an open book when it comes to emotions and that I have extreme empathy and am as quick to give comfort and compassion as to ask for it. I relate wholeheartedly to people in obvious distress. I feel their pain in my own heart and am eager to offer any comfort I can. When a friend comes to me with a difficult thing going on in their life and is crying, and appearing sad, distraught and in need of empathy and comfort, I know what to do. Of course I feel sorry that they are struggling and of course I wish I could take away their pain, but I usually feel that my empathy, and compassionate listening is enough. I know that it is all I can do and I feel satisfaction in being able to pour out some of my over abundant empathy to soothe someone's aching heart. I know that God gave me extreme empathy for a reason, and it feels good to be able to use it for someone's benefit. But when someone seems out of touch with a sad or hard thing that is happening, when they seem stronger and more able to cope with it than I do, I feel awkward and unsure how to respond. For example, one time I had a friend tell me that she had recently found out that an aunt she was very close to had gotten cancer and didn't have much longer to live. I was very saddened for my friend and I would have been glad to give her much empathetic support to help her in this trial.
But the strange thing was, she didn't seem to need it. She seemed sad, but strong, and much more resigned than I could've expected possible. It didn't make any sense to me for someone who had recently heard such horrible news to appear so emotionally strong. When I expressed my sorrow for her and for her aunt she thanked me but said, "It's too bad, but it's okay." My deeply feeling heart actually revolted. In shock I asked myself, "How can it be okay? And another time, someone I am close to lost a pet that they'd had for a long time and on the very day that their pet had died they were talking about it without much apparent emotion. When I lost my parakeet whom I'd had for eight years it was months before I could talk about him without crying. When someone is mad at me, when a relationship has fallen apart, when I've seen something scary on the news, when I received a bad grade on a test, or been struggling with reoccurring sickness, I did not express myself as if it was okay. I could not act as if I was managing fine, or as if I didn't feel extremely sad and frustrated, but other people do. For years, I've pondered confusedly how so many people can talk about horrible, distressing things without much apparent emotion. I've wondered how so many people can approach things like the loss of a loved one, the move of a sibling they were very close to, a broken relationship, or violence in the world with so much more emotional strength than me. It seems almost unnatural and insensible sometimes. It's weird, but sometimes I feel frustrated with people for not appearing to feel what seems appropriate that they should feel. Recently however, I started to have a new view, thanks to some insight my friends have given me about their apparent lack of emotion. I've come to see that many people just don't express themselves in tears or signs of distress as I do, even when they are very sad or pained. They just feel privately and sorrowfully while they put on a smile or say, "It's okay."