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The Value of Empathy

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Empathy is a rare commodity, but needed more than ever.

Recently, a story has been circulating newsrooms across the country. The family of Sgt. La David T. Johnson, one of four soldiers killed in an ambush in Niger, felt disrespected when President Donald Trump said to the grieving widow that the soldier “knew what he signed up for.” (Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/18/us/politics/trump-widow-johnson-call.html) Whether you take this exchange as valid or believe it is “fake news”, the sentiments reportedly expressed raises questions about how we value empathy in today’s culture and society.

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of empathy is:

the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner. (Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/empathy)

You may not have experienced a specific tragedy or disappointment. You may not have endured another’s pain. Yet, when you value empathy, you can extend compassion and connect deeply to their experience. Too often, the value of empathy is being dismissed and replaced with a callousness and apathy that permeates every sector of society. If you are attempting to start a new business and fail during your first try, rather than being greeted with words of compassion or being coached, you may be on the receiving end of words such as “You should have prepared more” or “Your business plan was weak” or “You needed to do more research before making the leap”. Apathy’s default is always what you could have done better and how you are a victim of your own weakness and lack of preparedness. It never considers circumstances out of your control, unexpected roadblocks or the emotional roller coaster endured to reach a particular goal.

The lack of empathy doesn’t end in the business arena, but extends in relationships, employment, and other areas of life. If you’re relationship or friendship failed, you don’t have what it takes. If you still are unemployed, you didn’t look hard enough. If you’re in need of assistance, you’re lazy. If you are having a hard time loosing the weight, you’re undisciplined. See the pattern? Apathy immediately resorts to what is wrong with you or what’s missing. Empathy relates to your pain, demonstrates compassion and serves to journey with you to healing and wholeness. Your pain may have been a result of wrong decisions. Your condition may have been a consequence of your poor planning. But, when you are bleeding, you need to address the wound with tender love and care. If I’m bleeding, I simply don’t need good thoughts my way or feeling sorry for me (pity or sympathy). I need sympathy with a compassionate response. I need empathy.

Whether you are in a leadership role or serving others, we all can grow in valuing empathy for our fellow man and woman. When I review the Scriptures, I see a man by the name of Jesus who spoke truth but in love. I witnessed a man who showed compassion, coupled with correction. I see a man who took time to tackle the problem and not the person. We can all learn from Jesus’ example. And if you find yourself having difficulty showing empathy to others, I would suggest you ask yourself this question: “How would I like to be treated?” – RF

Holy Week REFlections: Good Friday, April 14, 2017

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“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13

Love is best defined through sacrifice. When we witness a couple exchange vows on their wedding day, seasoned married couples know full well that this moment is a promise of commitment and love. These vows are tested by the challenges and opportunities that life presents. It’s the sacrifices by each spouse from day to day that leads to the success of a marriage. While words and verbal declarations are important, the fulfillment of those words through action carries even greater weight.

Jesus personified love through His sacrifice on the Cross. This sacrificial act of love was not under compulsion, but under obedience to the Father. Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane:

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” – Luke 22:42

This Scripture passage demonstrates that Jesus preferred another route to save the world from sin and eternal damnation. This “cup” was a hefty price to pay. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). This sacrifice on the Cross of Calvary was a risky proposition. Jesus committed to die on a cross for a people that may ultimately reject Him. Yet, the promise of each member of humanity to become the righteousness of God (in right standing with the Father) was worth the risk. The reward was a people reconciled back to God.

On this Good Friday, we are reminded of the great sacrifice of the Father. He surrendered His one and only begotten Son for the sins of the world. This day, we remember the sacrifice of Jesus, who surrendered to the brutality leading to and at the cross. Jesus took the ultimate risk for the reward of relationship with you.

I know Whitney Houston was sang of “The Greatest Love of All”. No greater love was personified than Jesus laying down His life for His friends.

On this Good Friday, we are reminded that death died so that we may have life and life more abundantly.

What will you respond to the greatest love of all? 

Holy Week REFlections: Holy Thursday, April 13, 2017

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For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” – Luke 19:10

 

The King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. (Revelation 19:16)

The Savior of the World. (1 John 4:14)

The Alpha and The Omega. (Revelation 22:13)

 

When you reflect on the titles given to Jesus, any position or title we’ve ever had or will have pales in comparison. It’s not everyday that you hear someone called The Savior of the World. The reason for that is because there is only one. While Jesus walked on the earth, He could have carried these titles like a badge of honor, esteeming Himself and demonstrating His great power for recognition. But the Savior didn’t do that. The King didn’t choose that route. He humbled Himself as a servant.

 

Jesus’ greatest service was to obey the will of the Father. This led Him to seek and save the lost. For there were many that didn’t even know they were lost or needed saving. I was in that place too. I attended church and understood religious terminology. I acknowledged and accepted the Lord as my Savior at the young age of 13. I was practically raised in the church. But, I soon discovered that Jesus was looking for more. Rather than merely attending church, He wanted me to be the church. He was still chasing me down. He wanted a relationship beyond the surface. He was seeking me out.

 

Whether you are in a place of searching to discover the truth of Scripture or have embraced the Word of God as the final authority in your life, Jesus is still on a mission of seeking you. For God is not through with ministering to your soul, shaping your character and directing you into purpose. This chase and this pursuit led Jesus to the rugged cross on Calvary. As you read this right now, He is seeking you out. His love for you compelled Him to surrender His very life on behalf of yours.

 

Let Jesus find you in a place of surrender. If you do, you’ll discover you have much in common with the One who surrendered everything for you.

 

Today’s Prayer


Lord, I recognize there have been times I have subtly or directly pulled away from Your Presence. I may have even rejected Your love thinking I was not worthy to receive it. Yet, Your pursuit of me and of others proves that You count us worthy. I position myself today to surrender to Your heart and Your will for my life. I count it a privilege to journey with you on this adventure called life. In Jesus Name, I pray. Amen.