Confessions from the Diary of an Exhausted Empath

The exhausted empath must learn time and again that they stand in the gap.

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One thing sensitive people in this life have to bear is the incongruous reality that they will be taken advantage of, left, right, and center.  Of course, they will have many beautiful relationships, but it is where they are taken advantage of, even abused in the name of love, that they are traumatized for the fact that they live for others.

Channeling the empath, then, going deep inside to that highly sensitive person (HSP), who is more common than you think, we begin to recognize that there is an enormous price to pay for caring so much about everyone in the vicinity.  And that’s just the generic cost.  There is the voluminous cost of serving the abuser, the narcissist, the wolf in sheep’s clothing.

For many, an empath there is the reality of a deeper purpose than simply people-pleasing. Empaths have the capacity to be assertive and even to be aggressive if necessary, but why would they go there if they can already see the need in the other?  Remember it is the other person that compels the purpose of the empath, and this is not to be confused for people-pleasing.

For the empath, it is a choice to serve the one they cannot help feeling for. Get it, a choice.  And yet that choice so often has a price tag, and because their care is so precious, so diligent, so exact in its design, the cost brings them into quite a cavernous debt.  And of course, once they are in a place of burnout, they suddenly realize, “Who’s looking after me?”  The empath feels all alone, indeed possibly betrayed for the unrequited love of having not been cared for, and for the fact that the care they could do so well with is non-existent.

The exhausted empath must learn time and again that they stand in the gap, to use biblical imagery, for others, and there may be very few people who will be prepared to stand in the gap for them.

When the empath finds a friend who shares their empathetic gift, someone who ‘gets’ them, a dream situation if it is a life partner, there is much cause for joy; probably to be likened to the joy in heaven when one sinner repents (Luke 15).  The hope of the empath is to find a friend, a small group, a church community, of like-minded people.  Then they can serve with some kind of gay abandon, knowing they will be caught in the safety net of the care of other empathetic people when they begin doing too much again. What bliss when people start to say, “Consider yourself… how are you doing?”

Of course, empaths are not just caught in the action of doing, they are feelers through and through, and they are often found in the position of intercession, sensing and discerning the needs of others, yes, even to a fault.  What can be a poison chalice is inevitably a blessing for others, but again there is a cost, and the toll is always borne within the realms of apathetic enervation.

From one empath to another, even as we strive to bear our crosses in the serving of others, despite the exhaustion, we can know we are on the right side of God. It’s what Jesus wanted us all to do. This is no self-righteous judgment; our conscience is confirmed in that we must keep doing what we can do—acknowledging our limits—feeling what we feel, making as much of the opportunity for self-care as we can.




This is an updated edition of a post originally published on

Featured Image by Steven Coffey

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About the Author

Steve Wickham is a Kingdom Winds Contributor. He holds several roles, including husband, father, peacemaker championing peacemaking for children and adults, conflict coach and mediator, church pastor, counselor, funeral celebrant, chaplain, mentor, and Board Secretary. He holds degrees in Science, Divinity (2), and Counselling. Steve is also a Christian minister serving CyberSpace i.e. here.