The Power of Empathy

September 22, 2016

by Erin Bird

Several years ago, I read a book called Season of Life. It was about a highly successful football team at a private high school. However, the team didn't win state championships because the coaches taught offense, defense, and a winning attitude. Rather, the coaches approached football as a means to help boys become men - and that led them to a winning tradition.

But the coaches' definition of manhood was far different than how most people define "being a man." Rather than teach the boys not to cry, be tough, play through the pain, and other such nonsense, they taught the boys something far more powerful.

They taught them empathy.

Empathy Defined

Empathy is an overflow of love. When you truly love someone, you don't just feel bad when they are going through something difficult. (That's sympathy.) Instead, when your loved one is going through difficulty, you enter in to the pain with them.

Here on the blog, we've been doing a series about what a Jesus-follower should look like based on Romans chapter 12, and this week we come to verse 15, which says...

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
(Romans 12:15 ESV)

Paul doesn't say to rejoice at those who rejoice, or weep toward those who weep. If you follow Jesus, you are to rejoice or weep WITH the other person. You get into the joy or into the pain with them, letting him or her know you are fully present in whatever they are experiencing. Your full presence let's them know they are not alone.

Think about it... If you are celebrating something great, whether the win of your sports team, the birth of a new child, or a promotion at work, it's far more fun to celebrate the occasion with others.

Likewise, if you are going through the pain of losing a loved one, struggling with self-doubt, or fighting an addiction, it is so much easier to go through the pain when you know someone is there bearing your burden with you.

So let me encourage you - if you follow Jesus, then rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Don't just listen and walk away. Truly celebrate with them or commiserate with them. Be fully present.

And when you do, watch God use the power of empathy as you love that person like Jesus would love them.

Erin Bird Lead Pastor - Riverwood Church

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Riverwood Church, Waverly Iowa

We are on a mission to help people love like Jesus loved and live like Jesus lived.

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