Posted by: Jo | December 8, 2017

Empathy For Others

“Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering”

(Hebrews 13: 3)

Empathy01As I have written several times in this blog, words and their meaning fascinate me and when I came across the word, empathy, while reading, I started to think of its deeper meaning and why it is quite different from its sister word, sympathy.

While sympathy, means being affected by the condition of another, empathy has the power to fully understand the pain of another. We can watch a sad movie and weep many tears because we are affected by the sorrow portrayed and can feel sympathetic, but can leave the theater go home and forget the characters. The writer of Hebrews was stressing this to his readers when he urges them to imagine they are suffering with those who are suffering, not to just feel sorry and sympathetic, but to genuinely attempt to feel their pain and so help to relieve that pain.

The perfect example of extreme empathy is Jesus Christ himself. Jesus chose to become a man, so he could experience every feeling that mankind feels. He chose the limitations of the human body, so he could relate totally to us.

“For this reason, he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”  (Hebrews 2: 17. 18)

Empathy02So how do we become people of God filled with empathy for others who are suffering? To begin with we must be careful not to jump into a situation and blurt out, “I know how you feel.”  The response would be, “How could you possibly know how I feel.” We must learn how to be sensitive to heartache and despair, depression and grief and the only way we can do that is with the help of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit dispenses gifts to those who earnestly desire to have them, and they are there for the asking and these gifts used for God’s glory are very powerful, when they are used with his guidance.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.” (Galatians 5: 22)

Sometimes God uses our own suffering to create in us an empathy for others who are going through the same darkness and encourages us instead of wallowing in our own sorrow to reach out to them and to say confidently, “I know how you feel”, and to use the gifts of the Spirit to bring comfort to those sorrowing.

Empathy03Bad things often happen in our lives and in the lives of those around us without warning and we can be prepared for being filled with empathy if we stay close to the Heavenly Father. I love David’s prayer that prepares him for whatever is going to happen and a beautiful one for us to pray every morning before the day starts.

“Create in me a pure heart, O, God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51: 10)

 

 


Responses

  1. You make me realise that we need to feel WITH rather than FOR people – and we have the Holy Spirit working in us to achieve that empathy. May you and your family share the joy of Christmas, Jo, and we thank you for inspiring us during the year.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great message Jo but I hadn’t realised Piglet was so wise.

    Liked by 1 person


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