The strength of Christ in ourselves and in each other is the reflection of the presence of the Holy Spirit.
That is what true empathy is: we empathize with the strength of Christ in each other rather than with the weakness of the ego.
I am really ending another’s physical pain is giving a message that says God is not angry at you, and by my love and my peace I am reflecting for you the love and peace that is inside you.
On the level of form or behavior I may do exactly what someone else does, but my motivation will be different. I will be doing it from a place of strength, not weakness.
It is not my heart that goes out to you; it is the light in my mind that calls to the light in your mind.
True empathy begins with the idea that we are all suffering — that we all share the same problem. Simply being in this world is suffering, because this world is not our home.
We are all suffering. The forms differ, but the forms don’t make any difference. The content is what is important. Simply being in this body, in this world, is suffering.
But just as we all share the same problem, namely, that we chose the ego instead of the Holy Spirit, we all share the same solution, the same strength, and the same source of strength.
However, if I see feel that I can someone in pain and relate to that person because I once experienced the same pain, that would be making the error real. Thats false empathy. I’m saying, “I can relate to you in pain, because I was there once. But I’m not there now.
It’s not any different. Whenever I have something that you don’t have, and I make that real, then I’m caught in the ego trap. I’m going to give you something that you lack, which I have. That’s the ego’s way of saying, “Look how good I am.
The way that we do help each other is to remind ourselves that we have another choice .
In one of the earlier passages in the text which describes the Holy Spirit, Jesus says the Holy Spirit doesn’t do anything except remind (T-5.II.7:4). His purpose is to remind us that we have made a faulty choice and we can now make a better choice.
In the manual, a section on healing and the function of the teacher of God as a healer says that what heals is not the hands that are laid on another person nor the words that a person says.
What heals is that the healer is the reminder — the healer stands for the Alternative (M-5.III) that reminds the person who is sick that he has made a faulty choice by joining with the ego, and can make a correct choice, which is joining with the Holy Spirit.
That’s what we do. That’s true empathy. We remind each other of the choice for the strength of Christ that is in the mind, as opposed to the weakness of the ego that always separates and divides.
True empathy reminds us of the strength that is within us. False empathy reinforces the belief that there is no strength in us. There is only a sick, weak, and suffering body, and we feel sorry for it.
We do not feel sorry, generally, for people who have gotten themselves into messes. Our hearts usually go out to people whom we identify as victims, but almost never to people who are victimizers.
Empathizing really means joining. The Holy Spirit uses the power of our minds to join. We have used the power of our minds to join with the ego. The power of our minds to join is really the power of our minds to decide or choose.
That same power of our minds to empathize or to choose the ego can be turned around so that it serves the Holy Spirit. We join with Him and with His Love, and through that joining we join with everyone else.
The miracle — and true empathy — help us move our attention away from the body, back to the mind.
That, of course, is what Jesus taught us from the cross. No matter what was done, no matter how unfair the attack on him was, his peace and the Love of God within him was totally unaffected.
The world indulged in false empathy and identified with what was perceived to be his pain and suffering, so that Christianity made a god out of the suffering, victimized Jesus. That is a wonderful example of false empathy.
Jesus was really teaching true empathy. He was asking us to join with the strength of Christ that was in him. When we identify with that strength, there can be no pain, no suffering, and no tears, because all suffering and pain come from identifying with the weakness of the ego.
Here is that important idea that all we have to do is merely sit quietly by. We don’t have to do anything. When I find myself getting upset because of your sickness or your pain, and beginning to empathize with your suffering, all I have to do is simply step back and say to Jesus or the Holy Spirit: “Ah, there it is.
I’m doing it again, I’m making the error real. I’m denying the power of your mind and the power of my mind to have chosen. Please help me look at it differently.” Use whatever words you want. I sit back quietly and let Him tell me what to do.
I let Him guide me into what I should experience, rather than telling Him what I should do. A lot of us first define a problem out here in the world, then ask the Holy Spirit what we should do about it. That’s an example of bringing the truth to the illusion, or the light to the darkness.
Step gently aside, and let healing be done for you. This is the same idea as the workbook lesson that says, “I will step back and let Him lead the way” (W-pI.155). In the “stepping back” is almost literally stepping away from the ego and stepping towards the Holy Spirit.
So the only way of solving any problem is to step away from the ego and towards the Holy Spirit.
False empathy is taking someone’s problems very seriously. Feeling sorry for ourselves is taking our own selves very seriously. And this is simply the reflection of the original mistake, when we took the ego thought very seriously.
“Into eternity, where all is one, there crept a tiny, mad idea, at which the Son of God remembered not to laugh” (T-27.VIII.6:2). If we had laughed at it, as the Atonement principle would have us do, we would have realized that this is a preposterous thought.
As we will see later, these are examples of what the Course would consider false empathy, is when we identify with someone’s weakness instead of someone’s strength.
False empathy is always coming from a perception of differences. Suffering is one very clever and effective way the ego makes the body and differences real.
You have to be careful of those who always want to help, because they are not coming from a place of love. They are coming from a place of seeing differences: You need help and I am the one who can help you.
Remember, we are not talking about behavior. We are talking about the need to be a helper, the need to be a do-gooder, the need to be a healer, the need to be a teacher, the need to be anything in a relationship where we are different from the other person.
When we feel sorry for someone, the underlying idea is: “This is a terrible thing that has happened to you. You need my help.” What we are doing is driving the ego’s knife in even further.
When I feel sorry for you I am really saying that I feel bad because of what has happened to you. I am identifying with your experience of yourself as a victim, and am joining in with your defense which says: “I am not a mind, I am not responsible.
When we feel sorry for someone, it really is an attack.
When we feel sorry for others, our hearts go out to the particular person or the particular group, which is clearly distinguished from other persons or groups.
Almost always when we identify with a group that has been unfairly treated or oppressed or a person who is in pain, someone is perceived as the victimizer who has inflicted the pain.
We always see the world in terms of good and bad, good guys and bad guys, victims and victimizers.
Once we do, it is obvious what we are doing. We are separating, seeing differences, and making judgments, and judgments always involve an attack.
That’s false empathy. That’s how you can always tell when you are listening to the ego and not to the Holy Spirit or Jesus — you will always separate out.
False empathy always chooses certain people, certain groups, or certain problems as different from others, and we establish those differences as real and important. We use empathy to make the past real by making suffering, sickness, injustice, and victimization real.
We’ve done all that because we made the original injustice, the original judgment, and the original attack real. We believe we did that to God, and we simply relive it over and over again.
The ego tells us its version of love. Its version of love is compassion, concern, pity, feeling sorry for people, taking care of people, ministering to people, taking away people’s pain, etc., and we call that love. The ego never tells us its ultimate purpose, which is to kill.
Instead it makes up a world of pain and suffering, and tells us we will be the good people, and we will undo pain and suffering in the world. These are the do-gooders in the world.
That is why Jesus says, “Trust not your good intentions. They are not enough” (T-18.IV.2:1-2). It is the well-intentioned people who are the most terrible people in the world.
They are the ones you have to watch out for, because they seem to be something other than what they are. An ill-intentioned person is a blessing, because you know exactly what you are up against. I am not saying that such a person is all-loving, but at least you know what you are getting.
This does not mean that, on a behavioral level, I don’t do something for someone in the world. It means that if I do, I don’t do it out of weakness or pity.
I don’t do it out of feeling sorry for the person. I do it because I am answering that person’s call for love on the level that that person can accept it.