But what if someone is being abusive or manipulative towards you? Should you grit your teeth and stand there taking it, because you want to be nice? Not at all. You don’t have to be rude, but you don’t have to, nor should you, put up with it.
Being kind, nice, and compassionate are all degrees of being empathic. Empathy is what holds human society together, because we look out for each other. But there are times when being nice and empathic can go horribly wrong.
In attempts to help others, a person can go overboard and be too sensitive, even becoming hyper-empathic. Another term for this is “pathological altruism.” That’s when people, with the best of intentions, cause harm because they’re blind to the potential consequences of their actions.
For example: What if your husband regularly cheats on you, “because he was abused as a child?” You love him and sympathize with his horrible childhood. You don’t want to add to his suffering, so you’re nice, turning a blind eye, pretending the infidelity isn’t happening.
A better way to handle this situation is to think of the long-term consequences. Is being nice going to improve your relationship? Is it going to make you feel cherished? What message is it sending to your children? Is being “empathetic” going to help him recover from his childhood trauma? Are you holding him accountable for his actions?
Another example: Your sister has just been diagnosed with diabetes. She’s overweight and has a terrible sweet tooth. You know she loves Whoppers, and you want to give her a special treat. Are you going to be nice and sympathize with her desire for candy? Is that really what’s best for her?
Always being “nice” can also make you more vulnerable to exploitation by manipulative people. Narcissists and psychopaths prey on empathic and altruistic individuals. (You can learn more about this in my new book, “WHEN EMPATHY FAILS.”) So the next time you’re tempted to be nice, take a moment to think about the consequences and make sure it won’t harm either yourself or others.
Radiant empathy has clear boundaries, because it’s governed by the good of self and others. Those with the greatest empathy, EmD-5s can detach from the games others play yet keep constant in their love—for themselves—and others. They hold dear the thoughts and feelings of others while staying true to themselves.
Would you like to explore how you can increase your empathic skills? If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I also offer online therapy if that works best for your busy schedule.