Saturday, November 8, 2014

Empathy

"Empathy is the experience of understanding another person's condition from their perspective. You place yourself in their shoes and feel what they are feeling." - Psychology Today

Empathy, I think, is both good and bad. It is good in that when we have empathy for someone we ourselves hurt. We can relate to what someone is going through because we "feel their pain." It's like we're going through the experience, whatever it is, along WITH the person it's happening to. We KNOW what they are feeling. Empathy is bad . . . for that very same reason.

I have a friend whose family lost their pet dog recently. To them, their dog was part of the family and they grieved for their dog just like they would a family member. For those who have never lost a pet to death it is hard to have empathy for that grieving person because they have never gone through that experience themselves.

In my life, I have a special empathy for people whose parents develop Alzheimer's. My father had it. I know what it's like to go through that. I know what my mom went through, living with Alzheimer's everyday for years. I have empathy for that. I have LIVED that.

One of my daughter's friends was recently diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. I have lost several good friends to cancer. I can empathize. It is our experience in these emotional situations that creates our empathy in similar situations when we encounter them.

Some people, however, do not feel empathy for others. It might be because they have not experienced the death of a loved one, for example, to really know exactly how they should feel. But it is also possible that they simply do not have the ability to empathize. It's not in their DNA so to speak. Which would lead one to believe that empathy for others is a God-given gift.

Can you imagine God's empathy? How He must hurt. Imagine the pain you have felt in your life and multiply it by billions. That's a lot of pain!

God's love is unmeasurable. So is His empathy towards those who are hurting - all of  us.

Here is a question to ponder. What does a holy and just God do when all the people He created have sinned against Him - an offense punishable by death. "The wages of sin is death" is what it says in Romans 6:23. The answer is in the Book of John. You've heard it before. John 3:16

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."

THAT is empathy!!

How much empathy do we show for others when we encounter someone who is suffering? Some but not as much as God would. Imagine THIS scenario:

A young family is grieving over the loss of their baby girl. She didn't even make it two days in this world before she died. The mother and father hold each other and cry as they stand next to their daughters lifeless body.

Suddenly an older man walks into the room and, holding out a small bundle towards them, says, "This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased. I offer him to you freely. A gift to remove your pain."

Unbelievable, right? Yet God did that very thing when He sent Jesus to earth to die in OUR place.

Empathy? I'd say that God exhibits empathy alright! And we have been created in His image. We strive to become more and more like Him as we grow in our faith. What will we do today when we encounter someone who is hurting? How will we react? Will we place their pain above ours? I think that is part of what God wants us to become - selfless, compassionate, loving . . . empathetic.

Today, when you encounter someone who is hurting or grieving, even going through a really bad day, will you scroll past their Facebook post? Or will you pause, say a prayer, and send them an encouraging message?

May God create in us a humble, loving and empathetic heart. Be willing to serve in such a way and you will be pleasing your Heavenly Father.

"Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." - Ephesians 4:32

"Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep."
- Romans 12:15

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." - Matthew 7:12

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." - John 15:12

"Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves." -
Philippians 2:3

Empathy

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