We have feelings about who will be the next US President, as well as the other offices and propositions on the ballot. When the election results are in, you and your neighbors will have emotions like fear or relief, confidence or anger, discouragement or hope, cynicism or apathy.
The global pandemic of 2020 has stoked hot emotional fires of partisanship, divisiveness, and meanness — not only in our politics, but even in our neighborhoods, churches, and families.
Jesus says making peace with someone who offends us is more important than offering sacrifices for God (Matt. 5:23-24). He teaches us to speak the truth calmly, without embellishment or intimidation (Matt. 5:33-37). He urges us to love our opponents (Matt. 5:43-48).
Most importantly, he calls us as his followers to lovingly serve one another (John 13:14-15). When we do this despite disagreement, conflict, suffering, and other trials it’s our best way to shine the light of Christ’s love to people in the world (John 13:35).
But we can get controlled by negative emotions. This happens when we dislike and repress unwanted feelings.
Repression turns worry into anxiety, disappointment into depression, and anger into resentment. We may not realize that we have a cesspool of unconscious emotional toxins in our body. Slowly this saps our energy, erodes our health, and foments into unloving emotional eruptions like you’ve been seeing for months on your social media feed.
How do we stay calm and peaceful in a storm? How do we learn to love and respect people we disagree with? How we do become agents of peace amidst conflict and injustice?
To offer kindness, compassion, and justice to other people — including those who disagree with you or treat you badly — begins with empathy.
Empathy is befriending someone’s emotions, needs, and values. It’s stepping into the shoes of another person to experience their life. It’s setting aside your opinions and prejudices in order to understand. It’s opening your heart to show interest and warmth. It’s treating any human being as someone created in God’s image and deserving of love.
It’s very difficult to make much progress as a disciple of Jesus or be effective in ministry or leadership for Jesus without giving and receiving regular empathy. Yet, it’s a topic rarely taught.
Empathy is Jesus’ Golden Rule: “In all situations consider what the people around you feel and then do for them what you would want them to do for you. This summarizes the Bible” (Matt. 7:12 paraphrased).
To befriend the emotions of other people you need to experience having your own emotions befriended. Then you can share with other people the comfort or encouragement that you have received from Christ Jesus and his ambassadors (2 Cor. 1:3-7, 5:20).
How are you feeling today? Who could you have a soul talk with to give and receive empathy? Who is someone you disagree with that you can befriend with empathy?
Listen to this week’s SoulTalk:
Family formation is central to spiritual formation. Three-way relationships, known as triangles, keep you from experiencing healthy connection and intimacy within your family. Instead of experiencing division, you can grow in your awareness of how these triangles are affecting you and experience a change with God’s help. With real-life and biblical examples, Bill and Kristi will help you pay attention to your family’s dynamics to grow in deeper love with one another.