You all remember that amazing Pixar film that came out earlier this year? Inside Out did a beautiful job of presenting how it’s okay to be sad sometimes, because being sad can allow you to express how you feel to someone that you love and trust, and it takes a lot of weight off your shoulders. We can fight to be happy 24/7, but it’s almost impossible when there’s always that sadness that keeps pulling you down, and you have no choice but to either keep it bottled up, or spill it out and let someone hear you.
I wrote in a recent blog post that I have trouble feeling empathy. I only analyze what I can see or feel myself, and I think very little about how someone else may be thinking or feeling at a given moment. With this in mind, that doesn’t mean I’m not at all a stranger to sadness, in fact it’s a trait that keeps up with me often. The most common reason for me feeling sad personally though is that other people often tend to put me in that place. This isn’t usually because other people are treating me poorly or putting me down, it’s because when I see that they’re miserable or when I can detect that they’re ‘down in the dumps’ through their tone of voice and the way their eyes are behaving, it makes me feel sad for them. When they tell me things about them and how they feel, that’s what puts me in that place.
I see feeling sad for other people as a gift. Can it feel like a curse sometimes? Absolutely. Who actually ever wants to feel sad? Who wants to go to bed at night thinking about someone and just wants to start crying? I don’t, but I do anyway. So what are the benefits of feeling sadness for other people, and what are the pitfalls?
1. By feeling sad for someone, this means you have compassion for another person. You don’t want this person to struggle or feel miserable or even hopeless. You’ve either cared about this person for a long time or you’ve just recently gotten to know this person and have come to care pretty quickly for him or her.
2. Having compassion for someone usually means that you’ll feel motivated to take action somehow and try to find ways to make this person’s day a bit better and be there for that person in any way you possibly can. If action is actually taken, it can be very rewarding for both you and the person you’re thinking about, although it’s meant mainly for the other person’s benefit, not for yourself. Sure you probably feel good, but this is about the other person.
3. If you’re a Christian or religious in some other way, you may feel motivated to pray for the other person. Prayer is one of the most powerful and most intimate tools when it comes to wanting to help another person. You don’t even have to tell the person that you’re praying for him if you don’t want to, though it might make the other person feel a little better because it’s an indication that you have him in your thoughts. While prayer is a biggie, I recommend that you don’t use it as a quick and easy alternative so that you don’t have to feel like you have to take action yourself. If you’re fully capable of being there for the person or helping that person, then use prayer for when there’s nothing else left, and all you can do is stand back and wait. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with praying while you’re doing, but don’t rely on that one hundred percent. I personally believe in the power of prayer, but I also believe in the effectiveness of offering a hand to support someone if you have the ability to do so.
1. Like I said, nobody likes to feel sad and go to bed with that feeling. I’ve gone to bed crying on weekends because I went through whole weeks of listening to other people’s stories and sometimes the problems those people have feel like my own burdens that have just been placed on my shoulders. So while I strongly believe that feeling sad and compassionate for other people is a blessing, we may tend to use that blessing in a way that can make us depressed. There’s the danger of obsessing over other people’s experiences and feelings and it can all deeply affect us and make us sad in an unhealthy way that affects our own lives, and then we have to worry more about ourselves then the people we’ve been thinking about.
2. Another issue is that when other people entrust us with their stories and are willing to be open with you, there’s the danger of feeling like we’re their ‘savior’ that’s meant to rescue them from their problems and that we’re the only ones that can do it because we ‘know the person better than anyone else’. These are all lies that must be recognized, and when they are, we need to ‘kill’ those thoughts immediately.
We may be meant to help others to the best of our ability, but that doesn’t in any way make us other people’s saviors. We plant seeds and we contribute in this time we’re granted to be in these people’s lives, but we have to be content with what we’re able to do and have the strength to let go when it’s time and let others and God do what else is to be done in their lives. Believe me, it’s not easy, but it’s necessary. And don’t worry, many others will come along whose lives you can work to touch, trust me.