Reflecting on Empathy ….

Alone on a Rainy Evening taken on May 8th, 2012 by Kira SkalaIt’s a beautiful, bright autumn morning here in Virginia. Even in November, we are blessed with mild days, when the sun warms the air and tempts you to do without an overcoat. On days like today, I wish my garden included more fall flowers. All that remains is a single rose. So I was drawn to this lovely photo taken by my friend Kira one spring evening from her front porch. We can see a single wild columbine in the foreground, in sharp focus, with others very close by but also very blurry. I love how the blossoms bow down under the weight of the rain, bending but not breaking. Perched on springy branches, these gentle flowers seem poised to take flight. Yet this bloom has separated from the rest, perhaps carrying a heavier burden, or too proud to ask for help. How do we reach out to others in pain, often suffering more than we can begin to imagine? Do we wait until they ask for help? Do we call and leave it at that? Perhaps we look to insert ourselves into the situation, to feel their pain, to walk a mile in their shoes. There was a time when I thought such empathy was the highest calling, when my pride and ego insisted I knew what another was feeling, and worst yet, what they needed. Now I wonder if any of us truly knows another’s pain. When we place ourselves in another’s shoes, it becomes about us instead of about them. What if empathy feeds the ego, rather than helping the other? What if empathy is an obstacle to true compassion, a way to stay in control when life seems to spiral out of control? A lifeguard begins to help by throwing in a red and white ring, then offering a pole from poolside. Only when all else fails does the lifeguard jump into the water. It takes a respectful distance to help others, working from a place of strength and stability. Once we jump in, we may be asking too much of ourselves to be able to help another. Our desire for empathy may crowd out our compassion and sympathy. Make time today to reach out to others in pain or distress. Resist the temptation to take charge, to assume you know what is going on, or how the other person feels. Simply offer to walk with them on their journey, doing as much or as little as required. Humbly complete the tasks you are given, trusting in God’s economy to provide the rest. And always remember, when we lean on God’s strength and compassion, rather than relying on our own, each of us is capable of offering a ray of sunshine in the midst of a storm. Text by Connie Chintall ©2013, photo entitled ‘All Alone on a Rainy Evening’ by Kira Skala ©2013

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. creative soul
    Dec 05, 2013 @ 18:39:53

    Beautiful passage, and inspirational…

    Reply

  2. seekthesacred
    Dec 06, 2013 @ 10:42:45

    Thank you for your comment. Often your blog is that simple, small act that lifts my spirits.

    Reply

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