Compassion is a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

These are 2 words that we use to describe our youngest child all the time.  I often wonder how and why she spends so much time focused on others and their hurt.  She seemed to be born into this personality but when you sit back and look at her story these last 7 years, it is easy to see that she has most definitely learned this.  She was 18 months old when I was diagnosed with cancer and she spent the next year by my side.  We had lots of friends, family and an older sister(to look up to) that would come in and help take care of her and me.  She learned by watching them to be concerned and to care for me. She was diagnosed with dyslexia in Kindergarten and she very quickly realized she was different. And then the obvious, when she was 5, our family was called into ministry, GLR.  She sees and walks with families almost daily that are going through very hard things.  If you want to see a child that has empathy and compassion for others and then extends GRACE beyond most people's understanding, watch this little girl!  She teaches me daily!

Just today at lunch, she was telling me how she and her friend spent the recess walking the playground looking for people that might be sad so that they could figure out why and cheer them up!

Anyways, this has been on my mind a lot because I truly believe that when we go through MESS, our empathy and compassion for others increases.  Our mess can give us just the motivation to extend GRACE to others that are going through or have gone through their own MESS.

All of my kids learned at a very young age that this world is MESSY. We don't hide much of it from them and I truly believe that because of this they are all more empathetic and compassionate to others and their mess and pain.  Are they perfect, no and none of us are.  I most always ask them when they come home frustrated with someone or a situation, to step back and look from the outside in.  Were there other circumstances that could have caused the other person to wrong you or act the way they did?  Could you relate? Could you have empathy for them?

Sympathy is sharing someone's feelings or emotions.  Empathy is understanding them.

This world is so much better when we try to understand someone else's mess and pain and not just live it with them.  If we can understand, we can sometimes help give them hope.  We can help them see a way out because we begin to understand why and what is causing the pain and mess.  Empathy is a relationship, it'e depth!

My children have taught me so much about compassion and empathy.  I love doing ministry with each of them.  I love teaching them and seeing them begin to understand someone else's pain and mess without me having to point it out.  I love that they want to help others simply by just being there.  I love that they can most of the time give GRACE when sometimes I don't want to.

I have truly learned pretty quickly over the last 6 years or so that there is nothing I can do to keep the mess away. I can't protect them from it but I can teach them to live in it and to love others through the mess.  So we are going to continue to dive into the mess together and to learn compassion and empathy.  And hopefully love others through their mess the best way we humanly can, imperfectly but with grace!


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