Empathy: to step into someone else’s shoes and feel what they feel.
If you missed our BlogTalkRadio interview with Doug Stevens last night, I urge you, if your boots are on the ground anywhere, to listen to the podcast at your earliest convenience. We talked a lot about the pandemic, the divide in this country and how we as Christians can respond to the current situation. I also encourage you to go to our website and check out the excellent comments on yesterday’s Catch “The army of the Lord.”
These are indeed difficult and trying times, but if we approach this right, we will learn much that will serve us well in the days and months ahead.
You could say that one of our primary functions in the marketplace these days is to be spiritual first responders — quick to respond to the spiritual needs of those around us. And one of the most important ways to do that is to start with empathy.
Empathy begins with lament. We have to sit with people, hear their stories, and join them in their sorrow, loss, or understanding their fear. We took a brief look at the book of Lamentations last week so we were on the right track. The one thing we didn’t do is connect the dots to some of the things people are lamenting. Here are a few that come to mind:
The relatives and friends of those who have died.
Especially those who have died alone.
The loss of a job.
Those unable to provide for their families.
The homeless with little protection.
The elderly in overcrowded situations.
The growing divide in this country.
The inability to know what even the near future holds.
Take just one of these, such as what it’s like to die alone in a hospital bed, both for the one dying and for the friends and relatives who must be kept outside. Such a thing is unthinkable. I can tell you that if it were me dying, my wife would push her way in past anyone trying to stop her. They would have to physically drag her out. And if she somehow made it to me, I know exactly what she would say. She would say, “You better not die or I’ll kill you!”
Empathy doesn’t mean jumping into the pit someone is trapped in and now there are two of you there. It means stepping into someone else’s shoes and feeling what they feel. I used to think empathy took time. It doesn’t take time; it takes simple human caring. What someone else is feeling is the key here. It’s about the ability to feel yourself in someone else’s situation. It’s not about thinking; it’s about feeling.
Go over the list above and put yourself in the shoes of any of those people or situations. Caring about someone and acting with compassion toward them starts there.