Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sympathy or Empathy?

I've been at a leadership conference for the past two days. It's been a little tiring listening to someone speak for 8 hours in a row, but I have learned some really good stuff as well as brushed up on a few things that I needed to be reminded of.

One thing that I just learned today and I thought was worth passing on is the difference between Sympathy and Empathy. Both are necessary when ministering to people, but one is much better and more difficult to possess. Sympathy is merely expressing that you mentally understand the emotions of another, but empathy is the ability and willingness to enter into the emotions of another person- to be sad when someone is sad, or to be happy when someone is happy.

At the very least we should express sympathy to others, but we should all be striving to become good at empathizing with others.

That's exaclty what Jesus did with us. He didn't just look at our needs and merely express that he understood what we were going through, no He empathized. He willingly entered into our world and felt the same emotions that we feel.

I love this verse that I read today in Romans 15:1-6 (MSG)

"Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, "How can I help?" That's exactly what Jesus did. He didn't make it easy for himself by avoiding people's troubles, but waded right in and helped out. "I took on the troubles of the troubled," is the way Scripture puts it."

Wow what a powerful thing Jesus did for us, let's strive to do that for others.

1 comment:

Pump Dude (Kurt M. Richter) said...

Personally I find myself sometimes being more apathetic than empathetic. I get so wrapped up in my own little world and focus on what's affecting me that I can tend to ignore others around me if I'm not careful.
This goes right into something I read at lunch today in Micah (particulary 1:8 & 3:8). He was prophesying to the nation about impending judgement. In 3:8 he gives us some insight into his faith and what God called him to do, but in 1:8 he expresses true empathy for what God was going to do; because of what was going to happen to the other people of his nation he was going to "weep and wail....go about barefoot.....howl like a jackal....moan like an owl." That's pure, raw, unadulterated, emotion. I do that sometimes, but it's usually when I'm throwing a tantrum about an inconvenience in MY life. Even though Micah and God were "okay" with each other, he was still extremely hurt by the consequences his brethren would face. Hopefully I'll remember guys like Micah or even the now somewhat-cliche "WWJD" the next time I find myself completely absorbed in my own petty circumstances......