Being an Empath vs Feeling Empathy: What is the difference?

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The first time I ever heard the word empath was about five years ago in The Language of Emotions by Karla McLaren . Within the first few pages, the author calls herself as an empath. I didn’t really identify much with the brief definition that she provided:

I am able to read and understand emotions

but as she starting telling her stories, I started to wonder if I might be an empath, too.

I related to her recollection of knowing what people were truly feeling, dissociating from her body to cope, and finding relief in the metaphysical world. At the time, though, I didn’t give it much thought, because we all experience empathy.

What I didn’t understand was that there is a difference between empath and empathy.

I knew that I was really intuitive, but that in an attempt to belong, I shut those gifts off at an early age. But, the more I listened to my emotions, I recognized that it was time to put those gifts back on the table.

So, I asked for guidance on what my gifts were, exactly, and how to start using them to enhance my life and the lives of my clients.

And, while I know that embodying our intuitive gifts is a journey, not a destination, my prayers were answered.

I started to notice that on group coaching calls, I’d go off on these massive tangents from the topic at hand, wondering why I was saying the things I was, only to have someone speak up and tell me that it was exactly what they needed to hear. Or, I’d feel overcome with anxiety before getting on the phone with a client and, then, having them tell me that they felt nervous before calling me. This was happening repeatedly and I knew that these things held clues for me.

But I also sometimes felt confused because it wasn’t always like that. Sometimes, I relied on what people told me or the looks on their faces in order to understand what they felt.

I started to realize that there was a big, albeit subtle, difference being an empath vs. empathy, and that if I wanted to increase my intuitive skills by becoming an On Purpose Empath, that I’d have to tease out what that difference was.

Today, I want to share with you what I’ve learned so that as you continue on your path to being an On Purpose Empath, you will the difference, too.

What is empathy?

Empathy is something that all humans have the capacity to feel, except perhaps, sociopaths. It is in innate for us to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes so that we can relate to what they are going through.

If a friend loses a loved one, you might recall what it is like to lose your loved one, and through that recollection, feel grief “for” your friend. Or, if your friend is on the phone and telling you about a frustrating experience, you might empathize with their frustration by consciously, or subconsciously, conjuring frustration in your own body.

Empathy is the ability to share in someone else’s experience.

What is an empath?

On the surface, being an empath seems very similar to feeling empathy because an empath also have the ability to share someone else’s experience.

However, empaths tune into another living creature’s experience intuitively, without relying on external cues to do so.

Some empaths can even tune into the experience of plants, animals, rocks, and minerals (aka crystals).

The key difference between being an empath vs empathy is the reliance on external cues.

The feeling of empathy requires an external trigger, like getting a phone call or seeing the look on someone’s face. Being an empath does not.

All the empath has to do is consciously, or subconsciously, “look” at another living creature’s energy to know what it is experiencing. They don’t have to be engaged with them on a physical level at all to access that information.

Being an empath is an intuitive gift, just like being a medium or channel, and when utilized effectively, has the capacity to facilitate healing for our loved ones, communities, and our planet.

But, it isn’t a gift that is limited to a certain few.

For sure, some people are born “higher up” on the empath scale, just like some are better at math than others. But like math, you can also practice to become skilled as an On Purpose Empath. It only requires that you open up to your intuition and trust that it is a gift, rather than some sort of freaky weird thing that you need to fix or change about yourself.

Empathy, no matter where you are on the scale, is nothing short of amazing. Our empathy, whether based on external cues or not, is what creates connection between us. It creates trust, intimacy, reverence, compassion, and belonging. And like I said before, it expands our capacity to hold space for one another to heal, grow, and transform.

And I think we all want more of that.

Meet the Author

Hey there.

I’m Christie Inge. I’m a foul-mouthed Fairy Godmother for creative rebels who are committed to making a difference in the world by being themselves
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