Empathy or none?

My dad and I just got into a ridonk debate over whether I have too much empathy or none at all. (I’ll let you guess which side he took–it was the wrong one.) But I should preface this by saying that I’m stressed from getting the vaccine. It took four hours of mostly being on the road. However, it wasn’t a bad experience. The people in Lexington were incredibly friendly and very nice! How often does that happen? It was just being on the road that did me in.

I’m behind on reading blog posts, but I’ll catch up soon! 🙂

Yeah, so, we walked the dog, and I could see a man up the street, an older man whom I dislike for what my dad says are irrational reasons.

See, one time we stopped to talk to him, and he spoke at length about his granddaughter’s horrific injury, the physical effects, the emotional toll, the sad aspects of it, and on, and on, and on. I stood there patiently, trapped in some level of hell, while it just continued, with me twiddling my thumbs. I won’t get into the details, but… ugh.

Well, today, I have no energy for that sort of thing, because I’d been on the road for four hours. So when we saw him walking Buster, his pug, from a distance, I hissed, “We are not stopping to talk to him.”

My dad said, “He’s going inside. See?”

“Okay.” I breathed a sigh of relief.

The conversation then turned to why I dislike him. “Those gruesome details he told us were horrific,” I explained. “He’s an energetic vampire. This is happening on an energy level. He sucked our energy away so he himself could feed on it.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Codger said. “You have no empathy.”

“No, the reverse is true,” I said. “I have too much empathy. I can’t hear stuff like that without becoming miserable. It’s people who are indifferent who lack empathy.”

“I have empathy,” he insisted.

“No, you have sympathy,” I explained. “Sympathy is a virtue, but it’s not the same as empathy. Sympathy means you can relate and be there for him. Empathy is a curse.”

“Apparently. You know, you aren’t the only person in the world.”

“Yes I am, and thank you for allowing me to clarify that. I’m at the center of my universe, and from where I live, I can spot an energetic vampire from a mile away, whether you want to believe me or not.”

“It was my fault,” he said. “When that conversation happened, I kept asking him for more details.”

Weirdly, at this point, I can’t remember how true that is. It was a while ago.

“That might be true,” I conceded, “but there are some details that should stay in the hospital. Doesn’t she have a right to privacy?”

“I talk to people all the time about you and to you about them,” he pointed out.

“Yes,” I agreed, “but you use discretion, and so I’m unbothered by it. When you tell me about your friends, you aren’t being graphic and salacious. I assume the same when you talk to them about me. There’s a difference!”

I reminded him of how upset I was when I was six or seven years old, and Granny Smith had the news on at her house. The cheery newscaster said, “An elderly man filled his tub with hot water, and before he could add any cold water, he fell in and was scalded to death. Ooh, so sad. Now, let’s turn to Chip to hear about sports! How’s our team looking in this weekend’s matchup, Chip?”

It upset me so much that I haven’t willingly watched the news since (except for when the World Trade Center was attacked); and whenever my dad has the news on, I make him mute it. I hate-hate-hate the news.

So his saying I lack empathy is cruel and grossly inaccurate. I have too much empathy. I guess I don’t mind hearing about people’s problems if they’re “regular” problems. I always want to cheer people up and be there for them. But past a limit of graphic details, I can’t cope. It becomes salacious, like watching Oprah Winfrey interview burn victims and asking them how much it hurt to be on fire.

“Well, it’s a ridiculous reason to dislike him,” my dad said of our neighbor.

“It’s practical. It’s like how I dislike Ellen. It keeps me protected from such a thing recurring.”

“I’m sure his granddaughter is doing much better now,” he pointed out.

“Yeah,  that’s nice. Let’s not risk finding out. Once trust is broken, I’m not willing to ‘go there’ again.”

“Sometimes people need to talk about their problems,” he insisted.

“I agree, but in polite company, there should be a limit. To close friends, sure. In a casual conversation where someone could be overly sensitive, um, more discretion should be shown.”

“How is he supposed to know you’re too sensitive?”

“Anyone could be. You shouldn’t just assume otherwise. I’m telling you. He’s an energetic vampire, and he was feeding on our energy.” 

“That’s ridiculous.”

“You think I have no empathy. What do you think empathy is?”

And on and on.

*****

So, moving on. When I was getting the vaccine, a woman who was working there asked me, “Are you married?”

“No.”

“Okay, so what’s your marital status?” she asked.

“I’m single! Hopelessly, eternally, torturously single! Now and forevermore!” I made a sweeping arm gesture. “Single, single, single. There’s no hope for it. Where are all the men?”

I was sort of laughing, though, and she found it humorous as well.

So, now I’m half-vaccinated. I wonder what my other half thinks about that?

6 thoughts on “Empathy or none?

  1. From what you’ve described, it sounds like you’re very sensitive, like along the lines of a Highly Sensitive Person. My sense is that empathy isn’t one of your strongest points based on your advice column responses. You take another person’s situation and place it within your context to consider it, which in a sense is the opposite of empathy, which involves trying to place yourself within the other person’s context. I’m not suggesting that you don’t care, it’s just a different perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, whatever it is, I definitely don’t see it as a strength!! More like the opposite. You could be onto something with the sensitivity issue!! And you’re right! I can’t envision anything outside of my own perspective!! Huh.

      Liked by 1 person

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