Trying to walk in other people’s shoes and understanding where they are coming from is a good thing. It brings us closer and makes us more sensitive to other’s problems, but if you over empathise it can get confusing. Where do you set the limit? The line between you and others can become hazy and may even backfire.
Merriam Webster’s definition of empathy: ‘the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions : the ability to share someone else’s feelings.’
The ability to share someone else’s feelings is a gift which can be both good and bad. It can enrich your emotional life, increase your sensibility and understanding of those who suffer, but, on the other hand, when we try to understand and accept people who have hurt us deeply, excusing their behaviour by trying to understand their motivations may also leave us constantly feeling in the wrong. We may also end up forgiving the unforgivable. Thus, allowing the individual to pull the same thing again on us. So, is this such a good idea?
I am very empathetic but I have often been taken for a ride. Accepting inappropriate behaviour thanks to my overly understanding and forgiving nature, which has left me feeling cheated and disappointed, especially in time, as I distanced myself from the event helping me gain a more objective perspective.
Another disadvantage is that you may make other’s suffering your own. We should all practice a degree of empathy but must learn to draw the line when empathy will only be more hurtful than helpful.