Can you learn empathy or become empathetic?
The actual definition of empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others.
For the first part of my life, I would not consider myself to have been an empathetic person. I most definitely had sympathy for others but it stopped there. Sympathy let me have sorrow for another person's misfortune, but I stopped short of being able to understand or share their feelings surrounding it. Through those years, many people claimed that you couldn't learn empathy. While I might have agreed with them then,I very much disagree with that statement now. 'I am living proof that you can learn empathy.
Jen Hatmaker was interviewed for the Today Show, and stated that before enter into pain with others, we are privileged with not knowing. But once we know, we must do something, we must act. What I heard was this: once you know, truly know, another person’s pain and suffering, you feel compelled to do something to ease that pain, to lessen their burden, to share the load. That’s empathy. That’s my life!
Since cancer, I have begun to truly feel other peoples pain, I have begun to see things with eyes that are not my own, and I have begun to listen to others, hear their struggles, and enter into life where they are. My heart breaks when I see the despair and brokenness of the world and the pain that it causes others. It’s taken me a little while to put my finger on it and to understand why and where this comes from but I am beginning to understand.
I prayed for God to use me if He chose to leave me here on this earth after cancer. I prayed that His will be done here and that His kingdom would come. I meant it and I believe it is possible. And I now know that for that to happen, we have to begin to see things the way Jesus did when He was here on earth. He is our example of His Kingdom here on earth. We have to weep with our brothers and sisters, not for them. We have to fight with them, not for them.
And when we truly begin to know, when we let go of the privilege of not knowing, then we will begin to not only see the hurt, pain and suffering and acknowledge its sadness, but we will then truly begin to see the victories and the joy in the midst of the pain. We will begin to see that it is possible to truly love people the way that God loves us. And through that we will begin to see His kingdom here on earth. We will see the good that can come with empathetic relationships and God will get all the glory through the strength and unity that comes from those.
We will rejoice together.
We will weep together.
We will worship together.
We will be glad together.
We will know sorrow together.
We will no longer be us and them.
We will be one people, unified by vulnerability and empathy and God's blessing on both.
We will surrender ourselves and depend on God together.
We will listen to the Holy Spirit and step out in love and grace not hate and judgement.
We will embody empathy.
We will be His hands and feet.
We will love as God loved us first.
Entering into someone else's pain requirers bravery. It requires strength. It requires asking God for both. But the results are relationships that are strong, unified, and focused on bringing the Kingdom of God to earth.
We are better together. We are best together with God guiding the way.