If you are in vocational ministry there is a better than average chance that you are an empath, or at least have some of the attributes of an empath, or have an empath that is prominent in your life. What is an empath? People who acutely feel the emotional, mental, and at times, physical states of others are called empaths.
It is estimated that empaths make up 15-20% of the population. Because empaths are nurturers, healers, and care givers they often are drawn to ministry roles where they can exercise their gifts. And, regretfully, all too often the church allows them to exercise their empathy and compassion gifts to the point of exhaustion and burn out.
Empaths have the makings to be incredibly effective leaders because they care, not only for each individual in the organization, but for the mission and vision of the organization as well. They don’t bully, back-stab or use brute force, but instead heal, guide, protect, empower and deeply understand the lives of the people around them.
How To Tell If You Are An Empath
If you are an Empath, you will experience a combination of some or all of the following symptoms and attributes:
- You are caring and nurturing by nature.
- You can feel the emotions of other people before they are even expressed.
- You take on other people’s emotions, carrying them as your own.
- You have the ability to know something needs to be done, or is true or misleading, without having any basis in logic or reason. Often you just “know” when something is right to do, or not, or when someone is lying or hiding something.
- You often suffer from physical or mental fatigue and tiredness from too much input.
- Crowded places are overwhelming and draining to you. You find silence and solitude refreshing, and you require it to recharge physically, emotionally and spiritually.
- You frequently experience mood swings.
- Witnessing violence or cruelty is difficult and distressing for you.
- You are a very good listener.
- People often come to you with their problems.
- You are very aware of the physical environment.
- You try to avoid interpersonal conflict.
Care For and Protect Yourself
Unfortunately, many empaths get trampled on, used, ignored, and taken advantage of. Successful empaths though have found ways to deploy their unique gifts while at the same time avoiding burnout, and have learned how to discern and avoid predatory behaviors, and how to set effective boundaries.
Researcher and author, Brene Brown, interviewed some of the most empathetic and compassionate people in the world, people like monks, nurses, clergy, and social workers. She found that they have one thing in common: they are the most “boundaried.” In an interview with Maria Shriver she said this of empaths, “Put your thoughts, feelings, and needs on a par with the needs of others. Without boundaries, your availability can be a ‘dishonest kindness’. This not only costs others, but results in resentment and burn out for you. Learn to say no. Learn to be OK with disappointing others. Learn to let go of what others think and expect of you. The world needs you and your empathetic gifts.”
Posted on July 27, 2021