The Courage of Empathy: Perspective Taking
Empathy is critical in any organization, including the church, families, and businesses. When trust and connection are needed, empathy skills are essential.
While I’ve been trying to think of an organization where trust and connection are NOT needed, I can’t come up with one. From pharmacies and doctors to law offices and construction sites, trust and connection are needed for groups of people to be successful in their daily tasks.
Now put yourself with the scribes, Pharisees, the woman, and Jesus who appear in this passage. Who do you have empathy for in this passage?
Before you jump too quickly to the woman, let’s get clear on what empathy is not:
– It’s not giving advice, sympathy, judgment disguised as concern.
– It is also not sympathy.
When we empathize, we connect with the emotions another person is experiencing, not the experience. So while I have not experienced the death of a child, I can empathize with the feeling of grief, loneliness, and overwhelm a parent feels when facing this reality.
Likewise, you may not have committed adultery, but can you empathize with how the woman in this scripture passage must have felt? Take a look at this core list of emotions before responding. (You’ll find the list here.)
Maybe she was feeling embarrassment, fear, humiliation, hurt, judgment, lonely, regret, sad, shame, worry, overwhelm, or just plain vulnerable.
Have you ever experienced those feelings?
Sure you have.
It’s also the first skill of practicing empathy: perspective-taking. We’ll explore the other four skills of practicing empathy in the coming days.
As a result, you have the opportunity to empathize not only with the woman in this scripture but with Jesus and the Scribes and Pharisees.
Try it for yourself.
What emotions might Jesus experience at this moment? What emotions might the scribes and Pharisees experience at this moment? Use the List of Core Emotions to help guide you.
This week, practice empathy. Return to your call to courage and note the emotions emerge when you consider stepping into your “arena.” Return to week 1 if you need a reminder about the arena.
Lord Jesus, thank you for giving me the capacity to feel. Sometimes my emotions are hard, perplexing, and down right exhausting. At other times, my emotions are beautiful, life-giving, and uplifting. But, most of the time, I feel like I’m living somewhere in between. Thank you for the emotions that remind us we’re human beings, not human doings. Thank you for the spectrum of emotions that rush through my soul, Lord. Thank you for giving each one of us the capacity to feel. Amen.
What emotions did you experience today? Note what you felt, who you were with, and what was happening. Then give God thanks for what you felt today. Be reminded that YOU are one of God’s beloved children.
If you haven’t taken a moment to review the “Overview of It Takes Courage” please do so. You’ll find a few tips that will help you start this journey.