7 Steps to Having Empathy and Relating to Others
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Webster defines the following as;
Empathy-the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Sympathy–feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune:
Is there a difference between empathy and sympathy? Yes!
Often, people use empathy and sympathy interchangeably, but should they be used in this manner? Does it really matter if you have empathy or sympathy for someone? I would say it depends on the situation. However, using wisdom in implementing these two words is crucial to the effect they will have on the individual.
Empathy and sympathy share the same Greek origin, pathos, but people frequently mixed the phrases up.
If you are to be empathic, you must be able to set your judgments and selfish desires and ambitions aside to enter another’s hurting world.
Empathy is the feeling of another’s hurting, pain, and despair. You step out of your own mindset and issues to experience the intense sorrow in the individual’s life at that moment. It is as if you are saying, “I can help you carry this pain. You are not alone.”
The power of empathy is the feeling. It is you experiencing the emotion and pain with the individual.
Sympathy is driven by feelings of pity that are pushed by compassion and sometimes motivated with a sense of obligation to help the hurting individual.
Showing empathy is embracing an individual’s pain and despair as if you are experiencing it, but realizing it is not your own.
If you show empathy to an individual, you are feeling with that person. Whereas, showing sympathy is feeling for.
When we feel that someone truly understands and accepts us with all of our faults and failures, we can lower our preconceived judgements and empathize with others’ deficiencies as well.
7 Steps to Having Empathy and Relating to Others
1. Be moved with compassion.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Matthew 9:36).
Compassion means, “to suffer together.”
Being moved with compassion is more than just having pity on someone. It compels you to respond. To make a change in someone’s life. To help ease the pain and suffering. It is a call to action.
Compassion is you “suffering with” the individual, not feeling sorry for.
The world would be a lot brighter and a little less burdensome if we showed people compassion.
Will you be one that helps lead the way?
2. Listen with care.
Listening is more than just you hearing the individual speak, it is you feeling the person’s pain.
It is not you thinking of what your going to say next, but it is giving your undivided attention to that individual at that moment. They are the most important person at that moment.
Shut off your phone. Turn the tv off. Remove all other distractions and focus on the hurting person who is right in front of you.
Listen with care.
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others.
Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.
Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Philphians 2:3–5).
3. Use your words wisely.
Be careful when you are speaking to a hurting person.
Don’t ask judgemental or shameful questions. And don’t make belittling or guilt filled statements.
Such as, “Why didn’t you plan ahead for…?” Or, “You shouldn’t have done…,” “What ever possessed you to do that?”
These questions and statements do not offer any comfort, support, or exhibit empathy. They instead, project shame, guilt, and condemnation.
4. Provide comfort.
There is power in just a simple touch. A gentle hand on the shoulder, a hand on hand, a compassionate hug are all expressions of comfort. They let the individual know you are sharing in their suffering and they are not alone in their pain.
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.
For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.
Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer.
We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.
Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (2 Corinthians 1:3–7).
5. Exhibit empathy, not sympathy.
Be authentic. Make sure you are saying true feelings from your heart. Don’t just express pity for the individual.
Say things like, “I’m so sorry you are experiencing this right now. How can I help?” Or, “How can I help ease your pain?”
Remember, empathy is a call to action. It drives you to do something to help the individual.
Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.
Tyndale House Publishers. (2015). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Hebrews 13:3).
6. Offer your help.
Don’t say, “If there is anything I can do to help, let me know.” This places responsibility on the person to reach out to you during their suffering.
Say instead, “I’ll reach out to you in a couple of days.” This also offers comfort and hope to the individual that someone will check on them.
Help ease the person’s burden by offering to clean their house, run errands, do their shopping, mow their lawn, or babysit. These acts of kindness express a great deal of empathy and help lift the stress of the individual.
7. Check in often on the individual.
Make sure to check in either daily or often as you can.
Send a text, make a phone call, drop by to let the person know you mean what you have said.
Be aware that the person is most likely experiencing some form of depression.
Checking on them is crucial in the first week of their suffering.
They will experience feelings of confusion, sadness, grief, loneliness and guilt. Don’t leave them alone in these states of mind.
If the hurting individual needs professional help, please check out my resource page click here.
Through the guidance and grace of God, He has allowed me to help several people through their suffering.
I have seen a teen that was stabbed in a gang fight, a young girl who was raped, children who suffered molestation, abuse, cutting, attempts to commit suicide, and several other ungodly acts of evil and personal suffering.
God has also allowed many adults to enter my life with such hurting and pain that it saddens me to the core.
I am not stating these experiences to boast of my gifts, talents, skills, or abilities. No! I boast in the Lord that He has equipped and chose me to help His hurting creation.
Do I think of myself as significant? Absolutely not! This all comes from God.
I say all of this to show that you to can be utilized by God to help hurting individuals.
Put aside your busy schedules. Destroy your judgements of people that you don’t understand the sufferings and challenges they have faced in their life.
Step outside of your own little world and enter the life of someone else.
Show empathy. Be relatable. Express compassion. Give love. Be compelled to make a change in another human’s life.
Remember, you are called to action.
Jesus Christ was our prime example of displaying compassion and exhibiting empathy.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.
The New International Version (Hebrews 4:15–16). (2011). Zondervan.