Romans 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those mourn.
Compassion. Sympathy. Empathy. Three different tools in the EQ toolbox, but each one as important as the other. Compassion is the mover and shaker, it causes ACTION to be given towards the need. Sympathy is the identifier, it IDENTIFIES with the situation because of similar experiences. Empathy is the imagineer. Empathy is the capacity to IMAGINE what someone else is feeling even if you have not felt those emotions or had a similar experience. I want to focus on the tool of empathy.
I have never lost a child, but one of my dearest friends did. My compassion for her moved me into action, into deep prayer and intercession for her. I watched as other women that had lost babies sympathized with her and what she was experiencing, they held her and guided her through the grief. But empathy… well that put me in the middle of her emotions, not because I was a grieving mother but because I am a mother and I could imagine her pain.
I believe that empathy is one of the ways we can combat many of the things that are hurting our fellow brothers and sisters. Empathy not only allows us to imagine someone else’s pain, it will prevent us from needless arguments. When we truly listen to someone and try to empathize with where they are coming from, we might be able to pick up on underlying hurt, un-healed wounds, or even years of low-self esteem, fear, anger and bitterness brought on by other people or circumstances out of or perhaps with in their control.
When we use the tool of empathy, we are helping build a foundation of trust in others. When we empathize with others and try to IMAGINE their feelings, fears, experiences, we are saying that we value them, not their ideology or their thoughts, or even their actions. Empathy in it’s purest form is Romans 12:15. Laughing and weeping WITH others.
Recap: Empathy will keep us from combative, destructive, unloving and unholy arguments. Empathy for someone causes us to listen, to hear and to respond in a way that is radially loving rather than repulsively rude.
Challenge: Use your imagination. As you interact with God’s creation allow yourself to imagine their feelings and emotions and the reasoning for why they act the way he do, believe what they do and think the way they do.