Well, maybe she didn’t use those exact words, but she might as well have. My friend shared how much she appreciated me as a mom, having a special needs child, and home schooling him as well, which she imagined were not easy based on watching others in similar situations.
That sweet friend’s words truly lifted my spirits. I didn’t hear that she felt sorry for me or pitied me. Rather, she sensed that it isn’t an easy journey I travel between navigating through medical professionals, diagnoses, learning needs, adjusting teaching to suit those needs, and dealing with the emotional aspect that comes with special needs. The truth is that there are days when I’m plain ol’ tired and question if I’m cut out for the job.
My friend’s words impacted me because she had EMPATHY. Even though she doesn’t face the same struggles, she was able to PLACE HERSELF IN MY SHOES. I shared how refreshing it was to hear those words because women can be pretty tough on one another without even realizing it.
Maybe you’ve heard “harmless” comments like these in passing:
“I laugh so hard when a woman with no kids says she’s tired.”
“As a working mom, I don’t have the time to run my kids everywhere like stay at home moms.”
In such moments, do we pause to think: What if a woman can’t have a child? Isn’t she still allowed to be tired? What if the stay at home mom made such a sacrifice because her children needed the extra attention? Maybe her time is just as limited as the working mom’s.
Regardless of where we find ourselves in life: single or married, kids or no kids, working mom or stay at home mom, working in corporate America or working in a hospital, we all have something in common. We’re all women and we all have our fair share of ups and downs. No matter how pretty our smiles are on the outside, we all have moments of feeling pain and sadness on the inside.
So we have to decide whether we’re going to judge or show empathy. In Matthew 22:39, Jesus commands us to love our neighbor. “Empathy is the key that can unlock the door to our kindness and compassion.” (www.gotquestions.org) Albert Einstein said, “Empathy is patiently seeing the world through the other person’s eyes. It is not learned in school; it is cultivated over a lifetime.”
The best model of empathy we can ever find is Jesus. Though He is perfect, Matthew 9:36 shows us “when he saw the crowds, . . . (He) had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
You may be wondering how you can show empathy:
- PRAY for the person God has put in your path. Ask Him to help you see what He sees in that person.
- OBSERVE the person, their facial expressions, their body language. Actions speak louder than words.
- LISTEN when someone is sharing their heart. They may not need a solution or for you to fix their problem. They may just need to know someone cares and is patient to hear them out.
- SPEAK if the Holy Spirit leads you NOT by saying you understand, but by saying you can only imagine how difficult the challenge must be and that you’re there for them. Sometimes, there are no words to say and a soft stroke on the hand, a pat on the back, or a hug are all that’s needed.
Place yourself in someone else’s shoes today and see how God can help you be sensitive to them.