St. Mary Magdalene in the House of Simon the P...

St. Mary Magdalene in the House of Simon the Pharisee (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WHAT DOES EMPATHY MEAN TO YOU

OUR CAPACITY FOR EMPATHY IS A RESOURCE OF LIMITLESS POTENTIAL

Here is how the dictionary defines the word EMPATHY.  It says empathy is defined as the identification with and understanding of another’s situation as in; if I put myself in your shoes, I can understand how angry you must be about not getting that promotion.  Empathy is distinguished from sympathy which is defined as the ability to share the feelings of another as in I am so sorry about the death of your co-worker.

My Bishop, who I considered a Prophet that was filled with wisdom once made the wise observation, and he said to me, “That a person wrapped up in his or her own self, makes a very small package.  Such a person is a self-centered individual.  The dimensions of their life are dwarfed and limited.”

This was the situation that Jesus found himself in when he attended a dinner party in his honor at the home of Simon.  Jesus teaches us a real down to earth lesson when a sinful woman enters into his presents; now listen to how Jesus handles the situation:

One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee‘s house and reclined at the table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”

“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five-hundred denarius, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?”  And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”  (Luke 7:36-50 ESV)

Now let us example some of the lessons Jesus taught us in this story:

  1. Through empathy a person learns not to judge others in terms of his or her own personal interests, likes and dislikes, but in terms of what life means to them.

 

  1. Through the power of a person’s creative imagination, empathy enables a person to project themselves into the consciousness of others that they may know how the other person may think and how they feel.  Sympathy merely mirrors another person’s trouble, empathy discovers the causes of the trouble with the searchlight of insight.

 

  1. Through empathy a person may closely identify themselves with anyone he or she may wish to understand.  They may seek inspiration from the gifted, the victorious, the happy.  They may develop a deep comprehension of the problems of the blind, the crippled, the sorrowing and the defeated.

 

  1. Empathy helps to create harmony in the home.  Family members may play the roles of each other.  For instance, the father can play the part of the son and the son the part of the father, that each may learn to know and appreciate the feelings of the other.
  2. Practicing the art of empathy will enlarge a person’s life.  It will broaden their humanity, expand their understanding and inspire tolerance and forbearance, compassion and forgiveness.

Finally, all of you have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.  (1 Peter 3:8 ESV)

About these ads