It takes compassion To have honest empathy; Takes a loving heart.
In a World of Need by Terry Waite
“O Lord: In a world where many are lonely, we thank You for our friendships. In a world where many are captive, we thank You for our freedom. In a world where many are hungry, we thank you for our provision. We pray that You will: enlarge our sympathy, deepen our compassion, and give us grateful hearts. In Christ’s name, Amen”
Notice that in the first quote, Roger Ebert wrote EMPATHY is the most essential quality. In Terry Waite’s lovely poem, he asks God to “enlarge our SYMPATHY.”
What the difference between EMPATHY and SYMPATHY?
Oh, you poor, poor thing! I am so sorry for you. You hurt. What a shame!
I walk in your shoes, Genuinely share your pain. I understand you.
Lord, enlarge our empathy. Help us know how to reach out with compassion. Teach us to love, seek to understand, and share. With God’s grace … teach us!
And help us remember LOVE IS WHAT WE DO! Reach out in empathy and compassion today!
And don’t forget as you reach out to do so with a GRATEFUL heart!
My blog, “Loving One Another” is all about how to love, encourage, and inspire one another. Cristian Mihai of “The Art of Blogging” says we need to be able to express in 6 words or less why we blog and what we blog about.
I answered his query saying, “I spread love and inspiration daily.” That’s six words.
I augmented my answer by adding, “I plan to inspire, inform, entertain, and encourage.”
If we want to shine, to inspire and encourage others, to be unconditional, effective lovers, are there some tips we need to keep in mind?
Yes, I believe there are habits that lovers of people, lovers of animals, lovers of nature and of God, need to develop. I think they include these SEVEN HABITS OF EFFECTIVE LOVERS:
1. Listening with Intent
Effective lovers perk up their ears and really hear the voices, the sounds, the cries and laughter, the heart of everything around them.
2. Seeing non-judgmentally
Effective lovers look for the best in others. They see what they’re looking for. They see the person, animal or object as the Creator intended them/it to be. They imagine perfection, wholeness, beauty. They bring out the love that’s embedded in what they see.
3. Feeling with Compassion& Empathy
Effective lovers feel what others are feeling. They are compassionate and empathetic … not sympathetic. They don’t look at someone or something and say, “Oh, I feel so sorry for you/it.” They try to put themselves in the others’ shoes. They look for solutions. They offer real help. They fertilize the dying bush or bring the parched animal a drink.
4. Reaching Out
Effective lovers extend a helping hand without being asked. Their “feelers” are out looking for ways to help. They have a servant’s heart.
5. Taking Time
A habit effective lovers develop is the act of taking time for others. Whether it is visiting a friend who’s sick, caring for a pet while its owner is away, watering a garden, going to a nursing home, building a birdhouse or helping to complete a project, the effective lover is ever ready.
Knowing your own power is limited, knowing we’re all imperfect mortals who need divine guidance, effective lovers pray for others, pray for world peace, pray for endangered species and help in times of disasters and seemingly insurmountable struggles. Effective lovers reach for help beyond themselves.
We know our own limitations, and we know our own weaknesses. We know we do not always exhibit the kindness, patience and gentleness that effective lovers need. So, we ask for divine guidance and help from the One who strengthens us.
Effective lovers have staying power. They are tenacious. They are in it for the long haul. They are not quick to let go. Instead, they continue to love through thick and thin.
Like this beautiful spider web that is covered with snow, but hanging on for dear life as the wind howls outside my sanctuary, this web has a job to do. It will capture any insects that survive the storm … it will provide food for the spider that created it. It hangs on and fulfills its given purpose.
Being an Effective Lover involves listening, seeing, feeling, reaching, taking time, praying, and being tenacious… and it’s worth all that effort because you know:
“What you bring into the lives of others comes back into your own.”
Do you agree with these 7 habits or qualities for “Effective Lovers”? Do you have others you might add?
My devotional time this morning focused on Psalm 16:8 “I will keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him on my right hand, I will not be shaken.” It was an appropriate scripture for the day after I kept my eyes closed for what was actually only a little more than a half an hour, but in some ways seemed like triple that time. I was squished inside an MRI machine. Have you ever had to go inside one of those tubes and bear the clings and clangs and knocks and noises of whistles and whines? No fun! Some MRI machines come with a musical experience… headphones and your favorite CD or radio station. This one didn’t, so I provided my own! With my eyes closed (who needs to see the inside of a claustrophobic tube?), I kept my eyes on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I was not shaken. I sang my favorite hymns, cowboy songs, old R & B favorites. I hummed and smiled, and the tiny space I occupied didn’t seem confining at all.
Where do you focus your attention when you are in a difficult situation? When you’re in a tight spot, do you pay attention to the walls that are closing in on you, or can you tune in to your inner music and allow what is important in your life to be your focus? Widen the walls of worry and woe. Call on the Lord and be a beautiful listener. Be attentive to God at your right hand, and (as the Psalmist reminds us) you will not be shaken.
Practice that same kind of focused, attentive listening when you are in the company of friends and loved ones, too. Instead of listening to your inner music, and tuning them out, take your clue from the One at your right hand, and tune in fully to the conversation with your companion. That’s what Jesus did. He looked directly into the eyes, into the soul of His companions. He heard with His heart. God does that when we pray to Him. As if you were in an MRI tube, with no visual images to distract you, focus on what is before you. Let your mind center on the moment. Be attentive! Be a beautiful listener.
Beautiful listening is Empathetic listening. It’s an Acquired skill – It Takes practice; It Takes caring; it Especially takes knowing that Nothing is more important Than the one speaking In this moment. Listen Vividly. Be fully present. Enjoy the moment.
As Ashley Kappel prayed in this morning’s Daily Guidepost 2013, let us pray also, “Lord, remind me today who is important in my life and allow me to focus wholly on them, if only for a moment.”