By Lisa Karon Richardson
One of the most difficult emotions to sustain is empathy. Particularly when the recipients are ungrateful and maybe even, in our mind, undeserving.
Matthew 5:42-47 gives us an idea of what empathy means. "And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously. You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that." (The Message)
Because the real truth is that we're all unlovable at times. We can all be nasty. We can all be hateful and mean-spirited when we are hurting and fighting for our prerogatives, our rights, our way.
Empathy is the art of seeing. Seeing the people behind the masks of social convention. I hope you'll watch the video below. It is aimed at people in the healthcare industry, which is how I came across it, (and if ever there is a field that requires unending reserves of empathy it is healthcare!) but it is an especially poignant reminder to everyone that we all have a story.
Do you have any ideas for how to exercise your empathy muscles?
Influenced by books like The Secret Garden and The Little Princess, LISA KARON RICHARDSON’S early stories were heavy on boarding schools and creepy houses. Now, even though she’s (mostly) grown-up she still loves a healthy dash of adventure in any story she creates, even her real-life story. She’s been a missionary to the Seychelles and Gabon and now that she and her husband are back in America, they are tackling a brand new adventure, starting a daughter-work church in a new city. Her latest novel Diamond in the Rough, co-authored with the brilliant Jennifer AlLee released May 1, 2013, and is the first in the Charm and Deceit, series from Whitaker House. The second in the series, Vanishing Act, is coming in September as is a novella coming entitled “Midnight Clear,” part of the Mistletoe Memories collection.