Empathy in action

Originally posted August 20, 2019

Let’s talk about compassion.  In the gospel stories we are told that when Jesus saw groups of people he was moved with compassion.  Compassion isn’t the same as sympathy, which allows us to put ourselves (consciously or unconsciously) above the person we are considering when we see them as lacking something that we currently have and we feel sorry for them and want to “fix” them.  

Compassion is more than empathy.  When we empathize, we feel what the person is feeling and connect with them deeply.  Compassion is empathy in action. We feel what they are feeling and are moved to do something to help them heal. 

I do believe that we are each other’s keeper.  We are in this amazing journey of life on earth together.  We need each other.  I cannot control what you think, say, or do.  Half the time I feel as if I can’t even control what I think, say, or do.  But I can open myself up to God’s shaping of my heart and mind so that with the abilities I do have, I can love you and my fellow human beings better and better. I can see others with the same lens of compassion that Jesus saw people so that I am moved to help alleviate another’s suffering and pain.  Imagine if all of us made this our goal – to see others with compassion and help to alleviate their hurt.  

Compassion requires us to take what is happening in our world personally because we are all persons, human beings created by the loving, living God who created us to love (nope, not a typo) on earth as it is in heaven.

Each of us individually can make a difference and collectively we CAN CHANGE THE WORLD from “the nightmare it often is to the dream that God intends” (I borrow that phrase from The Right Reverend Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church).

I invite you to do two things.  First, engage in this conversation with me and others who post.  Don’t just applaud what I say (although I do sincerely appreciate your accolades, I’d like to know your thoughts as well).  The second is to pray the prayer of St. Francis, at least once a day.  And make note of what’s happening to you in between as God shows you real life ways to grow your compassion.

“Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.”

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