The Power of Empathy over Sympathy
This is the continuation of a series of Podcasts started in Episode #573.
When we open our hearts to someone else’s life, that is more than just feeling their pain. There is power in empathy that sympathy alone just can’t match.
(Carole) Empathy is intimate. Empathy costs. It costs great vulnerability. It costs entering into somebody else’s pain. It costs receiving that, in whatever way God is calling. But it’s intimate. And I think what John was saying in his blog was, he was calling me – reluctantly, I was reluctant – he was calling me to enter into the pain of those people who belonged to the Lord. Yes, He is… He is God. And I said over and over again, “Jesus, You are Lord. That is the truth. You are Lord.” In the midst of agonizing with these people, over their loss and over the pain and over the grief that they are and will continue to go through. It is intimate. It is a call to true intimacy, and that’s what He calls us to.
(John) I think one of the big things about the difference between sympathy and empathy is sympathy is really for me. Empathy is about the other. When I sympathize with someone, I’m trying to feel good about myself and my own goodness. That I can sympathize with you, “Oh, isn’t that…?” Nobody wants to be “now, now”-ed and “poor thing.” I mean, nobody wants that. But if I’m empathizing with you, I’m in it with you. I’m seeing you! Sympathy, sympathy sees ME. I’m almost reflecting my own pity party over here about your situation so that I can feel good. Where empathy is…
(Martha) What happened to you happened to me.
(Martha) That’s empathy.
(John) And embracing it. And embracing it. And you know, we’re… We’ve got a couple podcasts already in the hopper, because of the book (Altogether Forgiven) being released, and this will be, you know, a couple weeks down the road. And I think it’s fine, we got the blog written. But what’ll happen between now and then? What will be the new one? It’s almost like there’s one every week. Something is happening. And…
(Martha) And you know, I noticed something in the news that is different this time. They’re letting God be mentioned. And this man, what is his name, John? Willeford? Stephen Willeford. He said, clearly, in an interview, “I can’t describe it but the Holy Spirit came upon me. I cannot tell you how it felt but I was calm and I knew what to do.” And he fully believed that God had him at that place at the right time to take this killer out. He was trained and armed and able to do it, and was protected. Because they did get in an exchange of gunfire. And I heard of one major new media say, “I appreciate this man talking about his faith in the middle of the situation.” I have not heard anything like that mentioned before. So you see, even that is turning. At a high price, but… This precious man is God’s. Went out barefoot, running barefoot, because… They said, “Why didn’t you put, take time to put on shoes?” He said (as Carole said), “Because every shot meant a person.” A person! That’s empathy. And because he was led of God and sanctioned by God to be there, many lives were saved. We don’t know how many. He was headed toward another church in Waco, with all those weapons. And so, that is remarkable. That the media would, they said, “I appreciate that he’s talking about his faith in the middle of the situation.” And that’s new. It’s a teeny recognition that we need God. Nothing else, GOD. And I want to say too, I know that we are able to carry some of the grief for other people. We are able to vicariously take on and carry the burden. And I remember when I was going through some of, some sickness, my daughter said, “Mom, I believe I carried a little of your suffering.” And I knew that she had, because I experienced a freedom. We can, if we’re willing, we can enter in by the Spirit. And I think after Don Nelson’s death, which is, those of you who know us know that was a major event in our lives. John carried some of the burden of grief for Carole. He wept and Carole was able to not be so broken, because John carried some of the grief. So there’s, if we enter into this, there’s no telling what will happen in the news media. If we take these people on, they may find, like the man who wrote “It Is Well with My Soul” – his wife and three daughters, was it? Perished at sea. And when he took a boat and went to that very spot, that’s when he heard the words, “It is well with my soul.” And that was grace! That’s the kind of grace we want them (people of Sutherland Springs, TX) to have.
(Carole) Then it is intercession.
(Martha) Oh yeah, you, I didn’t realize…
(Carole) I didn’t, until you said that, a little while ago, I didn’t realize that…
(Martha) I didn’t realize it was, Carole. Thank you.
(Carole) I didn’t realize it, but when I’m, that’s what I’m hearing, is that’s what it is.
(Martha) Thank you, thank you. It is. And that’s encouraging, to be in it enough to help! And be (cross talk) to really help.
(John) Well, as I look at these faces on my blog, I’m thinking, God didn’t abandon them. God did not abandon them. And God did not abandon their families. And has not abandoned any of them. He’s one body, we are one Body. So if I’m unwilling to empathize and pick up my end of my Body, God help me! I’m letting, you know, if I’m the finger and I’m letting the toe down, or you know, whatever. You know what I mean? And He… No, I’m probably never gonna see these people. I’m never gonna talk to these people. I’m never gonna be able to give them a hug. I’m never gonna be able to do any of that. But if we are one Body, then we’re all connected through this. And Jesus, Jesus has not abandoned them.
(Martha) I just remembered something that I want to share. Some years ago I heard the testimony of a young woman, who was murdered by an assailant. And he stabbed her sixteen or seventeen times. I can’t, it could have been a boy. I don’t remember whether it was a man or woman. But this person, I’ll say it’s a girl, it was a young woman. God raised her back to life. She died from those stabbings, and she was brought back to life. And she said, “I want to tell you parents, if you have a child who is murdered, I want you to know that God was with me and I was in ecstasy. I was not even in pain as I was being murdered.” She said, “I want you to know that God is there.” And I remember when we, when Vicki Harris took us to Maulthausen, the concentration camp, and we saw so many horrible things: the ovens, the chambers, the barracks. It was unspeakable, I could hardly stand it. I thought I was going to explode. And then I cried out to God, just silently, nobody knew it, and I KNEW, all of a sudden, He was there! He was there, in that place, in that darkness, in every second, in the last seconds of life–He was there. Of course He was! Of course He was. He couldn’t NOT not have been there.
(Carole) I feel like He is driving us to revival. That’s how big His compassion and His love is!
The Power of Empathy over Sympathy – Episode #575 – Shulamite Podcast
When we open our hearts to put ourselves into the difficulty of someone else’s life, that empathy is more than simply feeling their pain. There is a power in empathy that sympathy alone just can’t match. Are you willing to feel the pain that could help another?