What if we pre-decide to choose people over policies and relationships over rules? What if we pre-decide to …
- exhibit patience?
- chose not to be offended?
- quit taking everything so personally?
- change the degrading way we talk to others?
- focus on what we have in common?
- chose the big picture?
- value the other person above being right?
What a wonderful world it would be. In fact, it would be just as God intended.
While sympathy suggests you share the feelings of someone else because of a similar experience, empathy implies you have the capacity to imagine the feelings of someone else without actually haven’t felt them yourself. Sympathy is easy because we’ve walked the same walk, but empathy requires a bit of work on our part. Pre-deciding to take the aforementioned actions requires empathy.
Are you willing to do the work?
If so, then here’s the first thing you must commit to … listen with purpose. Ask questions and offer clarifying comments that allow you to understand what the other person is feeling. The goal is to get a glimpse into their life and learn why they feel the way they do.
- It sounds like you’re frustrated because …
- It seems like you’re sad because …
- It feels like you look forward to …
- You were unfairly treated?
- Get even with them?
- What does that look like?
- How do you expect to do that?
It’s important to truly listen and think about what you hear the other person saying. Drafting your response while they’re talking is like preparing to debate them. The end goal here is people coming together to value each other more than caring about being right. While you can’t control the other person, you can control yourself. Own it. Own being empathetic.
Here’s the second thing you must commit to … consider their stance. People often land on their worldviews and stances because of their upbringing, which is comprised of both negative and positive experiences. When you allow yourself to step into their world, even for just a few minutes, you’re less likely to be annoyed and show judgement. Empathy here allows you to see the other person for who they are and understand their different point of view.
My motive for pre-deciding to elevate people over policies, to place relationships over rules, to demonstrate patience, to not be offended, to not take things personally, to speak in an uplifting and affirming manner and to prioritize likeness over differences is to represent God well. After all, I’m on His team. Who doesn’t want to represent their team well?
As I come into contact with people who know Him and those who don’t, I desire to represent Him by showing love, respect and empathy, all covered with equal parts truth and grace. In treating people this way, I can trust God is working in the situation. At the end of the day, the point of loving people I disagree with is unity.
Whether the issue is petty or prominent, I can choose people first. I’ve pre-decided I want to represent God well enough so that others will want to get to know Him. A posture of empathy helps me to accomplish that. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it.
Would you mind joining me in that cause?