"I’ve got to stop being so emotional. If someone is sad, I normally start crying before they do."
Empathy may be one of the least common, but most precious of all human traits. Courage, passion, happiness, resilience, and kindness are beautiful, but there is something to be said for empathy. Just sitting quietly in the presence of the laughter, tears and open wounds of another and experiencing them as if they were your own. The ability to listen to someone in pain can be rare; to feel what another being is feeling without suggesting (“You should”), balking (“Why didn’t you”), or brushing aside (“Why don’t you”) and shed a genuine tear is something not often encountered, and all the more precious because of it.
I imagine that in the presence of pain, there is no salve quite like someone’s tears, shed for you. Those of us who are highly empathetic are used to giving, but do not often receive. We can often be moved to tears at the sight of someone else in pain, but when our own hearts are bruised, torn and wrenched, the eyes of others remain dry.
I sometimes wonder if it would not be better to be slightly less compassionate. It might be less emotionally taxing to feel people’s pain so readily. And then there are moments like a few weeks ago when I tutored a student who communicated his sadness over his father’s death in very limited, broken English. His loneliness and isolation was so palpable that I started to cry. In turn, he gave me a hug, smiled and said, “You…not my teacher… you…my… sister!” So then, dear, beautiful lady from India, you are not “too emotional.” To many people in your life, your heart’s stirrings is exactly the tonic they need against the bitter cruelties of life and loss.