(Sunday Sentiments) The Power of Empathy: Are You Meeting People Where They Are

empathy-9550064_l“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
―     Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Every Sunday I like to do a blog post that helps us to focus on our spirit. Today’s sentiment is the word empathy. Of all the words in the English language, empathy is the word that I believe is most universal.  No matter where you may live on the planet, every human being in every corner of the world understands the power of the word empathy .

I wanted to write about empathy today, because I’ve been through a lot the past several years. I have close friends and family who have faced some of the most unimaginable storms, tragedies, and challenges in life. And I realize that the one thing we all have in common,is that we never could have made it through what we were going through, if we did not have the support,the love,and the friendship of good people who stood by us,prayed for us,interceded for us, and truly engaged with us to make sure that we had what we needed when we needed it.

A dear friend of mine is really going through something, frankly quite awful. Her business is in ruins, her reputation has been tattered, her family affected, her good name sullied, and her hope dimmed. I spoke with her this weekend, just to check on her and to see how she was doing, to see if she needed anything, to listen to her, to encourage her, and to pray with her.  As I listened to her, I could hear in her voice how deeply all of this has affected her as a human being, as a mother, as a wife, and as a business owner and employer of people. She is heartbroken and rightly so. You know, at moments like this, when we don’t know what to say, when we don’t know how to make our loved one or friend feel better it is imperative, that we show the greatest empathy possible and do so for as long as it’s needed to help them get through.

My fiend lamented to me softly how disappointed she was that the people who she and her husband had helped most , the people they had taken in, people they had given jobs to, their church, even some family members were not present during their struggle.  She said she made a list of who had been there, showed her kindness, empathy, and love and it had 4 people on it. She was grateful for those four people, but she said it was a real wake-up call. I totally understand. In fact, I overstand.

Here is the point I want to make this morning, particularly for those of us who call ourselves, “Christian”. Who call ourselves “Christ like”.  We are called by our creator to walk a certain way. We are to be the light of the world. We are to be the love light of mankind. We are a peculiar people. Salt & light. If that is what our creator calls us to be, then we, of all people should be able to extend empathy and kindness to those around us who are hurting.

I think if we could all hold on to the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And really remember that all of us at some point will be hurt. All of us will be heart broken. All of us will need a good friend. All of us will need encouragement. All of us will need wise counsel. All of us will need love.  If we can hold on to this truth, we will be able to extend empathy to other hurting people as a reflex.

I want to end with this thought: Religion over relationship will always fail. Too many of us are in church today, we will go to mid-week Bible study, we will check all of the boxes and we will feel like that is all we need to do. But we will fail miserably at what matters most to our Lord: showing empathy & love to others. I have been there. Many of you have. I would have laid down and died, but for the goodness of the Lord and the people that I believe He sent my way to speak life to me, to lift me, to bless me not just with a drive by “I’ll pray for you girl”, but with a visit, with a letter, with flowers, with a gift, with time spent listening, It is 1st Corinthians 13 in ACTION. LOVE is a verb folks. It is action. It is outreach, it is care, it is hope, it is touching, it is connection to the hurts of other people.

In the final analysis, we are all mortal human beings. We all struggle with something. But we are NOTHING without the help and support of one another. Yes, we serve a sovereign GOD who is able to heal us, help us, and bless us. But, our GOD is so smart, so EMPATHETIC, that he understood in Genesis 2:18 “It is not good for man to be alone. . .” We are called not to be a people who find excuses and ways not to love and help others, we are called to be a people who get involved. We help each other.

My message today is simple: Learn to connect with other people in their valleys. Learn to listen. It ain’t about you. They don’t want to hear you talk. They need you to let them talk. They need you to say after you have listened: What can I do to help you? What do you need? Don’t throw scriptures at people, tell them a bunch of religious jibber jabber. You are not helping. Listen. Care. Pray. Touch.

Empathy is listening to their heart. Seeing their pain. And relating through your touch.

Happy Sunday.



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