17 Feb Raising children who empathize and strengthen
Although my personality is prone to ponder, analyze, wrestle, and engage with the events of my life and the events in our world, never have I felt the weight and weariness like the last months. Not one to typically shy away from the messiness of life I have felt the need to turn off the news at times. Never have I felt the need for so much direction to walk out life in our nation.
My heart is heavy with the events going on. I am sure so many can relate. Events and issues that affect so many people – they affect personally and cause much pain individually, nationally, and globally. So much wrong. So much pain. So much miscommunication. So much “us” versus “them.” So much anger. So much vitriol. So much confusion.
My heart aches as I think and cry out to God: God look what is going on. God what is the way forward through x, y, or z? What will our future look like? How do I fit into this? How do my beliefs affect what I should be or do? When do I speak? When should I be silent? What things are most important to you God? I want to be about those! Teach me how! How do I love well? How do I love sacrificially? How do I be about truth?
I want to speak to one part. There are other parts. I want to speak to a part that feels personal and powerful.
The power of empathy
What is the difference between sympathy and empathy? Here are definitions I found for both.
Sympathy = “feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.”
Empathy = “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”
The ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Wow. When I ENTER the experience of another, both of our lives are changed. In our times I think about how welcome even sympathy would be.
We have all seen or experienced the vitriol and hate so easily and commonly shared on social media and in life. Human beings wishing the death of someone else or the death of that other person’s children. Someone attacking the character, or worse threatening the life of someone else, because they do not agree with the persons words or views. The ugliness of the human heart on display.
I do believe the ultimate answer for this ugliness is Jesus and am thankful that he has and continues to cover my ugliness with His blood. On the human level how do I, how do I teach my children to empathize? Then how do we strengthen other people? How do I foster hearts that “see” others, value others, and help others? And how do I teach strength of character? I teach my children, as I speak to my own heart, that we can live like this even if/when we are treated poorly! Who I am is not controlled by the words or actions of another!
Allow the sufferings in our lives and that in others’ lives to grow compassionate hearts
Allowing my children to walk through the suffering in their lives is antithetical to my mother’s heart. But the fruit can be immeasurable. When our middle son was one year old, as you can see from the picture, his older brother needed a walker. Having a sibling with a disability is not a walk in the park. But at age one, when Jeremiah fell, Hosea’s reaction was to help him up. I am humbled that my typically developing children have the privilege and opportunity for it to be “normal” to live with someone that continues to need help.
Teach our children to “see” need and find a way to meet it
When our oldest son got home from the hospital after surgery last fall, he needed comfort and wanted his brother (be still my heart). I can still picture them laying in Jeremiah’s bed, one brother comforting the other. Hosea lit up as I talked about how he was being “Hosea medicine.” Jeremiah needed comfort and Hosea could give him what he needed. We still talk about “Hosea medicine” and how we can be medicine to other people. How our joy, our service, and our comfort can help people when they are sad and in need.
How do we empathize? We enter the pain of another.
How do we strengthen? We give of ourselves to meet a need whether physical, spiritual, emotional, or social.
There are endless ways to touch lives!!
-Pick up an item a stranger drops on the floor
-At the grocery store ask someone in a wheelchair if you can grab something for them, as you talk to them as a valued human.
-Hold doors for the elderly or those with full arms.
-Take a meal to someone who is sick, just had a baby, is new to town, is going through a divorce, works two jobs, etc.
-Invite people over for a meal! BE with that person or family in their need.
-Offer to get items at the grocery story.
-Send encouraging texts or letters.
-Mow someone’s grass.
-Talk to those different from you. Get to know who they are as a person!
-Smile, smile, smile.
As we teach our children may we see the endless opportunities daily to bless EVERYONE who crosses our path.