In recent time when some very sad and distressing news was shared I pondered on what does it mean to show empathy or be empathetic towards someone?
Sympathy is feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune. Empathy on the other hand is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
In our daily interactions with others we readily express sympathy through our spoken and written words. Such gestures provide acknowledgement of a person’s situation but generally are a passive response which keeps us at a distance from the reality of what is going on.
Empathy relates to understanding through one’s real life experience the feelings of another. The phrase ‘to walk in another’s shoes’ is sometimes used to describe empathy.
So, the question might be asked, can one be empathetic towards another in situations where there is the absence of real life experience. In short, the answer is no, however through our words we can indicate that whilst we do not fully appreciate or understand how they might be feeling we are deeply sorry for their circumstance.
For Christians, there is much comfort and assurance gained from the knowledge that whatever is experienced in life, there is one who has experienced likewise, that being Jesus. For … We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help. Hebrews 4:15-16.
This indeed can provide real comfort and assurance as Jesus offers empathy in our deepest and challenging circumstances.
Take solace in Jesus embrace.