Commenting on one of the opening passages in Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth, Horatius Bonar shares ten benefits to Christians who will cling to God during times of suffering.
“The meaning and use of trial:
Do you know what empathy is? It’s not the same thing as sympathy. Sympathy is just wallowing with someone who is hurting, but empathy goes beyond that. Empathy is a compound word —
Em + Pathos =
Joined + Feelings =
I feel what you feel, but I can respond like you should even when you think you can’t.
Sometimes people get paralyzed by their deep hurts, or crushing depression, or infuriating anger. Someone in sympathy feels the pain, the depression, the anger, but their involvement stops at the feeling stage.
Someone in empathy feels the hurt AND responds in an appropriately healthy way.
Check out what Paul wrote —
Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger? (New Living Translation)
When someone gets to the end of his rope, I feel the desperation in my bones. When someone is duped into sin, an angry fire burns in my gut. (The Message)
He took those feelings his friends and loved ones were experiencing and he turned it into positive action. This is challenging, but desperately needed.
Sympathy is easy; empathy is hard work.
Sympathy keeps people paralyzed; empathy helps them move forward.
Sympathy enables people to remain unchanged; empathy gives people a healthy way to respond.
If you want to help your hurting, discouraged, or angry friend, don’t sympathize with her hurt, empathize to help her heal. Respond in a healthy way — a way she isn’t able to yet — and you will help her move to a place of wholeness.
I grew up in a church that believed in the literal “laying on of hands” while praying for someone. I still like to pray that way because I believe there is a power in human touch.
Science has proven that human-to-human touch has helped people feel better faster, lowers blood pressure, and stimulates cognitive development in newborns.
We shake hands with people when we meet them as a sign of acceptance.
We lay our hand on a friend’s arm or shoulder to show we empathize with their pain.
We embrace or kiss a loved one to show affection.
Dr. Paul Brand, a renowned surgeon who worked with leprosy patients in India, said that his hands were his most delicate and most accurate diagnostic tool.
How devastating when we withhold our touch! How crushing when the only time we touch is when we are angry!
Touch someone today. When you do, you’ll be touching much more than their hand; you’ll be touching their heart. Your touch could make a world of difference to someone today.