Empathy has become a bit of a buzzword recently, which in my opinion is a wonderful thing.
By definition, empathy is “the feeling that you understand and share another person's experiences and emotions.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 8 May 2017. The first known use of the word dates back to 1909 - Greek empatheia, literally, passion, from empathēs emotional, from em- + pathos feelings, emotion.
It is a bit crazy to think that for over 108 years we – as a collective people – have been practicing the art of leaning in towards those that need or desire our compassion. The practice of empathy, in my opinion, is a selfless act. We aren’t required to show pity but when we act in such a manner the result can be life changing not just for the receiver but for the giver as well. I call that #winning!
Practice Makes Perfect
I believe practicing empathy is like a small muscle that grows, matures and thrives as we continue to engage in the act of compassion. What a wonderful process not only for you the one actively pursuing the behavior but the person or persons on the receiving end are also positively impacted by your gesture and kindness.
No Time Like The Present
In a time of elevated entitlement, it may become harder to see the signs of empathy and compassion. Things in general – ranging from information, engagement, and fulfillment –happen now at lightening speed. Looking inward trumps considering those around us and ultimately how our actions may or may not impact them. In my opinion this is very somber and concerning. As a mother to an almost 3 year old I am constantly looking for opportunities to teach this century old character trait and life lesson to my little man.
Examples of Empathy
In the end we can all use a little empathy and compassion. Each one of us has a story – maybe you suffered an unbearable trauma or hold a secret that if told would make you an outcast. The good news, you are not alone! In the Bible, the act of empathy and compassion spill off the pages throughout the Old and New Testament. You read that right! We see it in the Exodus, God sees the misery of his people and comes to their aid. We also see empathy throughout the Psalms. And don’t forget about those immoral instances when God comes to the aid of those who acted immorally.
Bible Verses on Empathy
19 And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. Exodus 33:19 NIV
13 Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. Isaiah 49:13 NIV
5 The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. Psalm 116:5 NIV
1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves. Philippians 2:1-3 NIV
Let’s make a commitment to practice empathy and compassion. Simply looking away from ourselves and considering what the person in front of us may be going through or living out is a great first step. This of course is always easier said then done but simply thinking in this new thought pattern is a step in the right direction.
Is it not easy to look at strangers and come up with their narrative on why they are doing life wearing those clothes, driving that car and talking in that tone? I am guilty of this all too often and I want to stop this internal dialogue now! I find that when I start my day conscientious of the world around me – specifically who God is going to strategically place in my life – that I will be a better, more compassionate me. I win, the people I come into contact win, my Son wins and those who are simply watching our narrative unfold wins as well.
My prayer for you is to find those opportunities to practice lifting your compassionate muscle, to consider why your path has crossed with that lady or man and examine what God may be showing you, how He is challenging you today?