Sometimes I fear that my longing for empathy is closer to a craving.
Do you know what I mean? I want someone who leans over and (kind of) pats me on the leg and says, “It’s okay, honey.”
You’ll be okay.
You’ve done enough.
I understand how hard this is.
Really, my question is how can something so ridiculously simple, in its essence, often feel like cold water in a desert? How does it surpass chocolate?
Like how can you drive through McDonald’s on a frazzled day, in search of cheap tea, knowing you should make your own, and the woman hands your iced tea out the window into the blazing heat and says, “There you go, darlin” …and little tears sting the corner of your eyes?
Maybe this only happens in the south, I don’t know. Maybe we are just bigger empathy cravers down here.
But as I move around life, I’ve come to believe that all of us, in a world gone crazy. we are all a bit starved for the kind word, the stroke of empathy.
The last time I spoke at a pro-life pregnancy center fundraiser I discovered that there are now four pregnancy centers for every abortion clinic. And would you believe the number one reason women say they return to a pregnancy center rather than an abortion clinic?
It’s not the ultrasound or the baby clothes or the free pregnancy test.
It’s the kindness with which they are treated. Kindness.
The acceptance and warmth of another human being who meets you--not with judgment--but with kindness in the traumatic experience of being pregnant when you never intended to get pregnant. It’s life-changing.
Oddly enough, recent brain research underscores the power of empathy. When we feel that someone understands, the left side and the right side of our brains come together into more of an integrated whole. Empathy is the precursor to what we might call “healing.” We can hear on a deeper level. It’s a little more possible to let go of whatever we are grasping so tightly. Empathy soothes our soul just enough to allow our will to change.
There you go, darlin’.
When you think about this life you have with Christ, I would suggest that “empathy” is roughly what you’d call the miracle element of your faith.
Isn’t it true that in your worst moments, the only true comfort that sinks in deep is that this high and holy God who created all that is…THIS God suffered. He knew the betrayal of this closest friends. He felt the humiliation of hanging naked before a crowd of haters. Even in glory, he still has nail prints in His hands. He has been there.
That this beautiful God comes along side and speaks a word of kindness when I deserve anything but—yes, this makes the corners of my eyes sting. It’s always a surprise.
We have never been loved like that.
In all our afflictions, He is afflicted, Isaiah reminds us. He is the ultimate source of empathy. We are not alone.
So in this life that can be brutal and nasty, and maybe quite long, let us be the empathy of Jesus—to each other. Underneath our double-wear mascara, we are all desperate for a gesture of kindness, a personal note, and compassion that looks someone in the eye just a few seconds longer than required.
Empathy. It can rock someone’s world.