Love,  Self-Reflection

A Note to Fellow Empaths: Being Wronged by People You Help is God’s Way of Teaching You to Finally Love Yourself

It’s a story I am intimately familiar with because I have witnessed it in countless people I have met throughout my life and lived this reality myself. There are some who make it their purpose to give everything to others—to the point where they add to friends, family and strangers while subtracting from themselves—only to be doubled over in agony as the very people they helped take their kindness as an invitation to walk all over them like rugs.

At first boundaryless, givers eventually start putting up borders only for takers who are so caught up in their ego that the thought of being told no is seen as an ultimate act of betrayal. Suddenly, friendships or romantic relationships that worked perfectly as long as it was a one-way arrangement become intolerable for the creditor once the debtor starts to ask for reciprocity. That is when all hell breaks loose and love becomes exactly how it sounds phonetically when it is read backwards.

What seemed like a perfect union is exposed for the fools’ gold that it was once the gaslighting and emotional manipulation of the taker stop working on the giver. I know that this article is striking a chord with some because they have been on the giving side of the fence one too many times and have scars to show for it. This world is not kind to idealists and lovers because it rewards selfish pragmatists who see nothing wrong with leveraging people to get what they want.

I have a theory, while not scientific, that is being proven right by the day. I believe that the world is split almost evenly between empaths and narcissists. One thing binds both sides together: pain. What differentiates them is how they react to these hurtful experiences—most of them endured in our childhoods. Empaths decide to protect everyone from feeling the hurts they went through while narcissists make it a point to protect themselves at all costs even if that means hurting others to do so.

As fate would have it, empaths and narcissists grow up and end up drawing each other as adults. They say that opposites attract for a reason; people who like to give too much are rarely attracted to others like them while people who love to receive cannot tolerate anyone who dares to take the spotlight away from them. Initially, the giver-taker connection works because they feed into each other’s pathologies, but in time it falls apart because few can bear being taken advantage of ad infinitum.

Here is the twist, empaths and narcissists are not really that different from one another. Hurting others and hurting yourself are equal vices; God did not create us to bring misery upon people or to rain injuries upon ourselves. We romanticize the martyrs who selfishly add to many while subtracting from themselves but now I realize that is the height of folly. Jesus told us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, he did not advise us to love others above ourselves.

In this way, empaths and narcissists actually deserve one another because both sides end up hurting themselves deeply throughout their lives until their polar opposite teaches them to either be more self-caring or to be less selfish. True healing is birthed in the shards of broken love as pains that receded into our subconscious a long time ago are brought to the surface if we are wise enough to look inward instead of blaming the world for the hurts we keep inviting into our hearts.

So in a way, this letter is to empaths and narcissists alike. We are not responsible for the traumas we experienced as children but almost every pain that happens as adults are caused by the coping mechanisms we developed to deal with hurtful memories. Like flight or flight syndrome that animals experience in the wild, vanity and naïveté are defense mechanisms we took on to protect us from abuse, betrayal or unrequited love. Only by being still and experiencing the full discomforts the pains we run from can we start to mend right in the places we are broken.

Like Langston Hughes once wrote, life for me definitely has not been a crystal stair. From the time I arrived in America as a seven-year-old, each new decade brought with it bigger and bigger agonies. Leaving my grandmother behind in Ethiopia, witnessing my mom struggle in ways that no child should live through, watching my dad pass away before my eyes and experiencing more than two years of homelessness were but a warm up compared to the tribulations I am enduring right now.

It took the greatest adversity of my life that I am enduring at this exact moment for me to finally understand what I was missing all along. There is no love if one doesn’t love self. This lesson escaped me while I was in homeless shelters but finally found me while I was sleeping in my own home with echoes of my greatest treasure ricocheting throughout my house. God’s grace is boundless in this way, what could have destroyed many actually ended up salving shattered parts of my heart.

We have a choice in life when we are transgressed against, we can remain bitter and condemn ourselves to a lifetime of regret or we can bear our cross, get up when we are knocked down and find purpose in the midst of our crucibles. I am going to look back at this time and be grateful to everyone who has hurt me as I continue to pray for forgiveness for those whom I have hurt. I write this article not to genuflect on past sorrows but to remind myself and others that the greatest sunrises occur after the darkest nights.

Life is heartbreaking and amazing at the same time, we learn through pain and we appreciate joys that much more for it when we heal through tribulation. #Guzo2Healing Click To Tweet

If you find yourself in a similar situation as me, please don’t give your hand to wrath or seek vindictiveness. Know this, when the devil attacks you, that is also God arming you for your greatest victories yet to come. I finally realized—after spending decades believing in others—that I did not believe in myself. Healing is not easy; it’s like Andy Dufresne in Shawshank Redemption crawling through a mile of sewage in order to escape prison. But on the other side of all the manure is a freedom of self-belief and love that starts within that makes the journey worth every minute. Temesgen.

This song below by Zeritu Kebede is dedicated to everyone who is trying to overcome past pains, just remember, as Zeritu sings, we are not our mistakes.

Be With Me