Thursday, April 6, 2017

Where Empathy Makes a Difference

Yesterday, Buddy and I started out on our usual walk when we came upon this adorable little girl, who, from a distance, I could hear shouting "Look, a puppy!" She was so excited to express her joy to Buddy, and he was for her, that we stopped for this sweet exchange.

We made it back home just in time for the family's morning training and devotion that pivots around the current events of the home: a praise or motivational moment, a discipline moment, or moments of exchanging creative ideas on a project or activity. Yesterday's was so stirring that tears began to flow when I started sharing. On point, Buddy came and laid his head in my lap. I get that not everyone believes that dogs have the ability to "empathize", but I sensed it. Many years ago, Staci's dog, a Cocker Spaniel named Desi, was with us during some times when it seemed I often shed bucket-loads of tears. Inevitably, Desi would crawl up in my lap to comfort me.

Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, like putting ourselves into the mental shoes of someone to understand and even share their emotions and feelings. Though our furry friends may give us a measure of comfort, there is truly something to be said for others who understand us because "they have walked in our shoes", but even more so, when those friends give us hope. Here's what I know from experience. I don't need someone to say "Bless your heart. I know how you feel -- I've been there." Those words say to me "Go ahead. Wallow in all that pain. Go ahead and take your time in getting over it." PLEASE....give us more than that! Please give us hope!

St. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 1:4 "That you may be comforted with the same comfort that I've been comforted with by our God of comfort ." Like Paul, in his many testings and trials, we are encouraged to come boldly to God's throne of grace, where His mercy and grace are free-flowing in our times of need. The Lord is able to give peace to our troubled souls and says "Let not your heart be troubled." Our sweetest comforts are in Him. He speaks peace to us and He binds us up when we are broken-hearted. He gives hope and joy during our times of greatest need.....so much so that not only are we comforted -- we have enough comfort left over to encourage and comfort others.

Our story and how we made it through those times is what they need. That brings me to three words we can use to help encourage others. Feel. Felt. Found. For example, it goes like this when I am epathizing with a new widow(er): "I know how you FEEL. I FELT the same way, too, when my husband passed away. But, let me tell you what I FOUND. I FOUND that God is so ever-present to us in times of sadness, loneliness, pain and heartache. I FOUND that He is my best friend that has stayed closer to me than my husband ever could. He is always with me. I'm never alone. He gives me peace when I stop thinking about what I don't have any longer, and I start thinking about God Who has given me so much: the breath in my body to live another day, the strength to continue to run my race because I'm still here to complete the assignments God gave me." Now, that's what I call true empathy -- true understanding of how it feels, but true love that gives them cause to live another day with hope and great expectation for this day and tomorrow. That's what I call being a "Difference Maker"!