Feeling Bad About Another’s Suffering


How to not let empathy make you excessively concerned about others?

Deeply thankful for the last answer. There is this one person who hasn’t been kind to me in the past and I’ve forgiven and moved on. There are times when i see her suffer through loneliness and I can’t help feeling bad for her, because even though she didn’t treat me well, I know what that feels like and I’d want nothing but the best for her. How do I let it go of it?

—Preksha, India


Dear Preksha,

Empathy is indeed the ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation. This ability can be helpful to understand what may be going on for another. But empathy can also carry with it attachment if along with this awareness is your heart’s feeling that the situation should be different. Might there be, hidden in your subconscious, the thought that it is somehow your fault that she is suffering and lonely, therefore you should make it right? Your ‘feeling bad’ might be a guilt reaction which makes the ego feel better for a bit, ‘atoning’ for a ‘sin’. My guess is there might be an important lesson in this experience for your soul to learn.

Of course the ego never will be satisfied when it acts from egoic desire and your ego is not responsible for her actions and reactions. What is past is past. There is only now and the future. We must let go of expectations that others do what we think is right. God is in charge, we are not. Every time you are reminded of her, offer her into His care. Continue to send her loving prayers for her highest. We really are in charge of ourselves, making connection to the Divine, and how we put energy out into the world. We cannot control how others act or feel. Each person has their own lessons to learn. It is how they will grow toward self-realization. We can do our part by sending loving, healing energy and by acting toward others with their highest potential in mind. See her as a child of God making rapid progress on her own journey. In fact this is how all of us are most benefitted in our relationship with others. See the highest also in yourself for you also are a child of God making wonderful progress on your path or you would not be seeking answers to this question.

Many blessings,

Nayaswami Mukti