Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Empathy: Taking a Walk in Someone Else's Shoes

The empathy of a young child can be significant. My oldest has the gift of empathy. When he was two years old and I was pregnant with Trenton, I saw his empathy at its peak. Pregnancy can bring on significant emotions, and it frequently did during my last pregnancy. There was one moment when he was in his high chair, and I don't even remember the circumstance, but I was very emotional. When he saw my reaction, he began to weep. I couldn't believe his empathy.

Growing up as the youngest child, empathy and selflessness were not my strengths. In fact, I was a fairly selfish young person. I would never have thought it, but as I've gotten older, I've seen it. It was all about my worries, my wants, my hurt feelings etc.

For years I wanted to be a nurse. I think it's because I didn't feel the pain. I could watch a surgery with hardly a flinch. I could even watch a procedure on my own leg, but I looked faint, so they made me lie down. At one time I was proud of that ability, but today I realize that it was simply a lack of empathy.

As I've grown older, I've begun to feel pain at the pain of others. It is something that is truly a necessity. If we cannot put ourselves in someone else's shoes, our lives will simply be a shallow little world of our own. Most people have pain that they go through periodically, but if it is only our pain on which we focus, we will never grow. The knowledge of the experiences of others broadens our world, and it helps us to better reach out as a Christian.

Today, I have a little one who has been through a great deal. I've never seen wounds in person until I saw those that he has endured. The pokes and prods are something that I would never want to experience. As with most parents, when he gets a cold, I do not really know what he is experiencing until I am going through it myself. I experienced that this week when he got a cold first, and then a caught it. I would have never known how much he needed tylenol until I woke up in the night with a terrible sore throat. Experiencing the pain of someone else changes our perspective. This does not mean that we should inflict pain on ourselves so that we know. It means we just need to change our mind about others. Our perspective needs to not just skim over another's situation. We need to "weep with those that weep."

Imagine if Christ had lacked empathy. Where would we be? He literally put himself in our shoes on the cross when He took our sin. He felt the pain that each of us should have felt, and He knew how awful it would be. Empathy is a trait that all Christians should show if not only for the reason that we are to emulate Christ. His empathy showed in his entire ministry to the lost and hurting. May we have the same empathy toward those going through trials.

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