Empathy can be defined as the capacity to understand what another person is experiencing from within the other person’s frame of reference in other words place yourself in another’s shoes.
Matthew 22:39 “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
On the evening of Monday, May 25, 2015 heavy rain was followed by a wide-spread life threatening flood that exceeded the flooding we had experienced during Hurricane Ike. That morning, I awoke to many texts questioning my safety and texts stating “stay home.” I had no idea what my family members suggested; until I pulled outside of my parking lot to see the bayou over flowing with water. I quickly returned home and turned on the news that morning to see many communities in Houston underwater. A few days later, we learned the subsequent flooding event impacted thousands of businesses and homes, damaged hundreds of vehicles, caused power outages for more than 100,000 residents, and led to nine local fatalities.
Two weeks after the flood I met a woman at a work event—on a Saturday. The organization I work for partnered with a local company that offered free mattresses to families who experienced the devastation. Because it was the weekend, I didn’t have a sitter so my daughter, Lereine went with me. I really didn’t want to work on Saturday; especially with the sun beaming on me like I was a rotisserie chicken; but of course I obliged considering the partnership was valued at more than 1.5 million.
I saw a women in line by Lereine- of course she was entertaining the crowd. In an attempt to engage in conversation with her, I noticed she was wearing a shirt that stated “Rice University,” so I politely said “did you attend Rice?” I was not ready for her response. She said no, “I didn’t. Actually, I lost all of my clothes in the flood and a neighbor let me have this shirt.” Initially, I did not know how to respond. The only SILENT response was empathy.
All of a sudden my entire reason for being there became clear. Early that week, honestly I was frustrated because my team was required to work long-extremely long hours. As I began to imagine what Carley’s family endured- I had to stop being concerned about how great of a job I was doing or how long my work hours were. Instead of complaining, I started thanking and praying. My family could have been the family needing help instead of offering the help. God again humbled me.
Have you found yourself inadvertently complaining instead of thanking? Have you found yourself not empathizing with another person; because your struggle was not their struggle? Just know, GOD instructs us to have empathy and he wants us to love our neighbors as ourselves.
The next time you see someone experience pain, heartache, and/or turmoil- I challenge you to for a minute try to imagine what life would be like if you too endured their situation and then ask GOD to bless them. When you do, you will feel amazing, and so will they!
Thank you for helping me understand the importance of empathizing with others. For at moments, when I choose to lack empathy, please soften my heart to show love to my neighbor as myself.
Commit to the challenge. I DARE you.
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Le Reca Monik