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

6 Response to "Empathy, Part 2"

  1. valandshawn Says:

    Wow. I hope that this is as comforting to you as I think it can be!

  2. valandshawn Says:

    That last comment was me. I mean, Shawn.

  3. Charlotte Ann Says:

    I agree that love is so much more than a verb and that it is a connection. I've always loved people, but I've never been someone to donate because that's what we're supposed to be. I learned love in a whole new way when I counseled at camp, I still love, pray for and try to keep those connections and some of them have just become stronger. Then I found a new type of love with Zach, something that really helped me clarify what love is and what it goes through. Now, at work,God has been showing me more and more what love is and how it works. Love seems impossible under the situations that we go through at work, but I think that real Love is seeing past that and empathizing and going that extra mile for them even when they don't deserve it, Especially when they don't deserve it. I think that the modern day churches idea of love has definitely become a list of what to and not to do and that there is a piece missing between this and what love is.
    i don't know, but I really agree that the connection and seeing people for WHO they are instead of What they seem to be are some of the most important things in real, Christ-like love, but I'm sure that there is even more than that, I just haven't been blessed with that knowledge yet.

  4. Mommykendra Says:

    Agree that churches need to work more on building relationships, we need to all be more empathatic and accepting of differences, and need to work more on doing things for people because we want to and not because we feel like we are suppose to :)

    I was going to comment yesterday, but got distracted by Shawn's "that last comment was me" comment and was laughing too much to respond and then forgot. It didn't help that I read his first comment as saying confusing to you, instead of comforting and I was then very confused--LOL.

  5. valandshawn Says:

    i know, i had no idea what shawn was talking about. lol! I even asked him and I still don't know. =)

  6. valandshawn Says:

    Sometimes stuff only makes sense to me. Not sure why or what to do about it.

    Shawn