Empathy, Part 2

So I'm still thinking a lot about empathy with the kids and trying to put it into practice every day. I'm also thinking about how I can do a better job of empathizing with people outside of my family. It turns out that I am not very good at this! Yikes!

I kind of feel like it would be neat if churches could give classes on things like empathy and other communication/relationship skills. Trying to understand others and how they are feeling and where they are coming from seems like the first step towards loving them, to me. Or am I way off base? Sometimes I get the impression that Christians don't like the idea of empathy...or that people think it's scary to try to understand where people with other viewpoints or emotional reactions are coming from. There just seems to be such a focus on being right and proving how right we are, as opposed to loving others despite differences.

Or maybe we have a misconception of what love is. Like--we know that we are supposed to love one another--so we pray for others when they are sick, or donate clothes or old toys to charity organizations, or act friendly when we see each other at the grocery store. And we kind of think that these are loving things to do--they are nice things to do, but I don't know about loving. I guess it's possible that we do these things out of love--but I also thinks it's possible that we are just checking things that we *should* do off of our list.

I'm going to say that I think love is more than a verb. I think love is a deep, strong, lasting connection with someone that spurs us into action. I don't really think that we can skip the connection part and go straight to the action. That just seems empty to me--it doesn't seem like love. What do you think? Do we *really* love one another? It kind of seems like empathy (understanding the other person's story and where they are coming from, or at least trying to understand them)--is the starting point for love.

I don't know. It's kind of something that just clicked with me recently, that I was really missing in my interactions with others. I've been too worried about coming up with *my* response, and how I was going to explain *my* ideas, or how to get *my* kids to act the way *I* want them to that I haven't been focusing on others and what they need. Empathizing with others who make me cranky or annoy me or hurt my feelings or whose beliefs I just don't get helps me to remember that every person was created in the image of God and every person has value. And that every person's thoughts and beliefs and values are the result of what they have been through. It doesn't mean that I have to agree with them, it just frees me up to love them more.

By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. --John 13:35


I've really been struggling lately with church and what role it needs to play in my life, etc. I had an incident a week or two ago that really shook my confidence in what I thought that church was and I've really been trying to examine what I need, what my expectations are, and if church is really what I need to fulfill what I am missing--if that makes sense. I still love Jesus (maybe more than ever) and I want to serve God and serve others, but now I'm not so sure that church is a good starting point for that.

I feel like I can narrow down what I need to 2 things:

1. I need an opportunity to serve the community.

2. I need some sort of support group, I think. Like--a group of people who get together for the purpose of talking about life's joys and struggles and encouraging each other in building relationships, handling conflict, etc.

I have thought for a long time that this is what church is for. And last week's incident really made me realize how disappointed and upset I've been that church isn't meeting my needs. And I never thought of myself as one of those people who goes to church to have their needs met--I just didn't realize they were needs, I guess. I think I've just had this romantic view of what church should be like--where we are always serving the community and helping to meet other people's needs, and where we love each other, and trust each other and are totally open with our struggles etc.

I had a great discussion with some friends recently, and it was brought up that church is for worshiping God and sending us out to minister to others, where we kind of take what we learn and go out with it and use it in our everyday lives. I had heard this before, but this was the first time I really heard it as being in conflict with how I understood church.

I have really kind of been mourning that this week, I guess--Just the thought that church isn't even for what I thought it was for. I've been pretty emotional about it, but I think this is really good for me to deal with. I am realizing that I really do need some sort of support group and I really do need to help the community and I'm not going to be able to do that through church. So now I kind of feel free to look for that elsewhere. And maybe this will help me to feel free to just enjoy church as a way to worship God, and not worry about if I'm involved enough or connecting with people there in a meaningful way.

I guess it might sound like I'm giving up on church, but I'm not. I'm letting go of my expectations, which I think is a good thing. And if things change at church, that would be great--and maybe I can help by being more open--but in the mean time, I think I need to just accept it for what it is.

On My Own

Shawn left today for Las Vegas & will be gone for the week at a hardware convention. I miss him already!!

I think I am up to the challenge, though. Here are some of my goals for the week:

--Get the dishes done every night. Shawn does this a lot of nights for me--so it might be hard for me to get into the routine. But I HATE waking up to a kitchen full of dirty dishes.

--Get lucy's lunch made every night! Shawn usually does this in the mornings, but I am not sure I'll have time so I'm going to try to do it the night before.

--Remember to take the trash out tomorrow night!

--Go on some sort of adventure with the kids. Going on an adventure always helps our moods, and I'm going to plan it in advance, because I know that we have the potential to be super cranky by Wednesday afternoon. We'll probably go on a nature hike or to the mall if the weather is not good. =)

--Get the lawn mowed. I know I can do this! And it really needs to be done!

--Ask for help when I need help. wow, i have a hard time with this one! so--i asked my mom to come over tomorrow afternoon to help before I REALLY need it. =) hopefully that's when I'll mow the lawn. =)

--Start reading a book I got for my birthday, watch a few episodes of my favorite TV show, and blog at least once. Because if I don't get any Val time, I probably won't make it until Saturday!

--Keep the house moderately clean and do at least a couple loads of laundry.

--Get Lucy to school on time every day! And pick her up on time! This might be the most challenging thing on my list. I'll have to get 3 kids ready in the morning instead of just 1, and without Shawn to help! It'll be fun to try to beat the clock. =)

So--yeah. That's all. Anything else that I accomplish will just be a bonus, I guess. =)

I know that Shawn is going to have a much worse time than we are--he says that Las Vegas is kind of a sad town if you're there alone--so I'm trying to have a good attitude about the whole thing & keep up with all the work while he's gone.


I love reading about relationships & how to make them work, and how to handle conflicts, and the psychology behind it all. I just think that stuff is so interesting--I can't get enough of it! I have been reading a lot about something called the Collaborative Problem Solving method. It's a model for how to handle conflict, basically. There are only 3 steps, which makes it sound easy, but it sure doesn't come naturally to me.

Step 1. Empathy
Step 2. Define the Problem
Step 3. Invitation

It seems like most people really stink at handling conflict. Do you think this is true? I sure stink at it. Sometimes, with parenting it seems like your options are force your children to obey or let them walk all over you. Neither of which I like. I love this problem solving method because you go directly to the person/child who you have a conflict with & you talk it out & come up with a solution that works for both of you. I love talking things out! It seems so practical! And Lucy and Ruby are not too little for this.

So--Step 1 is Empathy which means you make a non-judgmental observation about what the other person is thinking or feeling. You don't have to agree with what they are thinking/feeling--you just have to acknowledge it. This has been such an eye opener for me! It really made me realize that sometimes I have no clue what my kids are thinking or feeling because I didn't take the time to observe it. Quite often I just notice whether or not they are behaving inappropriately & I try to correct the behavior. (Which doesn't work even a little bit with my particular children.) I'm sure it wouldn't work with me either, now that I think of it!

But the tone of our interactions changes dramatically when I use empathy. My kids just want me to acknowledge what they are thinking or feeling at the time. The girls are still pretty little so most of the time they don't tell me what is wrong, they just scream. Or hit. Or whine. But they actually calm down so much quicker if I just take a minute to notice what they are feeling. "Lucy, You are frustrated that Milo keeps coming into your room without permission." Ruby, I can tell that you really wish that we had some ice cream right now. And you are sad that you can't have any." Just knowing that I understand is sometimes enough for them to calm down and behave more appropriately.

I think the neatest part is that using empathy helps me to look at the conflict differently. It helps me to slow down before I make a judgment, look at the situation from their perspectives & kind of understand where they are coming from. I fail to do this several times a day, by the way. But I'm trying & hopefully if I model empathy enough, they will learn how to think about things from other people's perspectives also.

So--what do you think? Do you have any stories or examples or ideas about empathy that I can learn from? It seems like a good way to approach adults that you have a conflict or a disagreement with as well--always acknowledging the other person's feelings first.

Anyway--I've got lots more thoughts on this...so hopefully i can keep up the blogging and talk about this some more!

love ya,