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When Empathy Isn’t Noble

Updated: Dec 21, 2023

Boundaries make or break relationships. The establishment of where we stand in relationship maintains values and self-respect, this one aspect is intrinsic to personal integrity, without it an individual risks loss of authenticity.

While all communication requires empathy, this is a result of wanting to live in a world where people don’t hurt other people. Empathic response can be understood in two ways: the first is learning to put yourself in someone’s shoes to see the pain they experienced that made them cause harm, and secondly learning how to respond to unresolved trauma in others when it's communicated through abusive patterns. Everyone has the capacity to heal, therefore, everything another does in the pit of darkness against us, that we allow, teaches them to continue, and lack of boundaries justifies their actions.

Sacrificing boundaries isn’t noble. Living in a world where people don’t hurt each other starts with standing up for ourselves, and recognizing disrespect. Another individual's scars is not an excuse for abuse they extend to others. When we let others behave in unacceptable ways, they lose respect towards the people they target, at the same time their victims lose respect for themselves. Holding to standards creates integrity, and authenticity, there is no other road to get there.

Unhealed people tend to seek company in misery, although wanting understanding. The result of this is unconscious attempt to expose wounds through acting out trauma to match frequency. This does not create healing, but re-traumatization. Healing begins with the journey of forgiveness, and self-awareness. The bottom line is that healing is, transforming darkness into light, after we have accomplished this, we cultivate expectation for others to do the same. Self-respect is the action of establishing boundaries, and communicating assertively.

Boundary violations can be a form of abuse, however, it's only our perception that creates the violation. Knowledge is power, there are seven categorized types of abuse that impact relationship to self:

  1. Discrimination which is oppressive attitudes that refer to a person's dress, skin colour, sexual orientation, age, weight, disability, and culture.

  2. Financial abuses includes fraud, theft, exploitation, pressure to invest, misappropriation or misuse of a person's money, property, will, testament, or inheritance. This also includes damaging a person's property.

  3. Institutional abuse that takes place because of the rituals, routines, or restrictive practices of a setting.

  4. Neglect and acts of omission are passive forms of abuse, as it is not what the abuser does, rather what they do not do. Deliberate neglect can happen when needs are not understood.

  5. Physical abuse results in injury, or pain, for example, kicking, pushing, hitting, or slapping someone against their will. This includes abuse of medication, use of restraint, or other sanctions without consents.

  6. Sexual abuse is when a person is unable, or unwilling to give consent, or is pressured into giving consent, and forced into a sexual act against their will. The result is sexual assault. Unwanted touch is unwanted.

  7. Psychological or emotional abuse includes blaming, humiliating, and threatening to injure, harm, or abandon, as well as verbal abuse, excessive criticism, intimidation, coercion, isolation and deprivation of contact, being controlling and harassment. The other six forms of abuse listed above are also considered to be psychologically abusive.

Fifteen forms of abuse that are immediate cause for exercising boundaries and termination of contact are:


  1. Verbal abuse, yelling, name calling, shouting, and vulgarity.

  2. Spreading malicious rumors, gossip, and lies.

  3. Threats of physical abuse.

  4. Intentional isolation, ignoring, and excluding individuals from social networking in a family or work environment.

  5. Intimidation or manipulation

  6. Making false accusations of apparent mistakes you may have made.

  7. Sabotaging or impeding your work, career, and ambitions.

  8. Cruel comments, belittling, and insulting.

  9. Unjust, harsh, and constant criticism.

  10. Aggressive behavior.

  11. Sexual harassment that includes unwanted touch, and stalking.

  12. Personal and offensive jokes.

  13. Invading a person’s privacy or personal belongings.

  14. Unequal treatment due to race, gender, age, size, religion, or country of origin.

  15. Taking credit for work that was solely your own.

Self-respect begins with speaking up for ourselves in honour of self-worth. When boundaries are violated feelings of being taken advantage of, and of being unappreciated are invoked, after which frustration results. When one can exercise strength to say “no” to things they don’t need, or can’t do, inner worth is honoured, and the result is empowering. Seek strength to counter attack people pleasing, as seeking approval creates vulnerability. Delay responding in the moment, as narcissists will seek your vulnerabilities to invoke a reaction. Don’t be afraid to assert yourself with the phrase, “Let me get back to you, after I look into that.” Establish boundary as policy.

Look beyond the power struggle for what it is, those who display selfishness and violence may also use tactics of minimization, denial, and punishment of those who challenge their authority, this is why it is difficult to report abuse. Toxic individuals seek an heir of entitlement through mind games, minimization, and blatant disregard of others needs in relationship. Walk with awareness and recognize toxic behaviours that include constant criticism, gaslighting, passive-aggression, continual tactics that display the need for power and control. Stand your ground, and know when it is time to confront abusive behaviours. Be careful, as calling this behaviour to attention, can result in a critical response followed with accusations of victimization with you as the perpetrator.

The most noble act is calling out abuse for what it is, having a backbone for yourself in self-protection of self-esteem, self-worth, and self-love. Abusive individuals don’t heal when their abusive tendencies are accepted, but is this the same as the pot calling the kettle black? Why would you look at the speck in your brother's eye, and pay no attention to the plank on your own? When one empathizes with behaviours that create a sick individual, and continue to allow the behaviour, what is it one has failed to do?





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