Loving Others with Empathy, Compassion, and Care this Year

A prominent part of Jesus’ message is that we should love others as we love ourselves. Sometimes, though, it is unclear how this plays out in practical terms. What does it even mean to love others as we love ourselves? In my opinion, loving others involves empathy, compassion, and care. And I think we must begin with ourselves.

The Good Samaritan, William Etty 1838

The Good Samaritan, William Etty 1838

Beginning with Ourselves (and God)

If we do not love ourselves very well, then we are not prepared to love others fully. We carry baggage like pain, guilt, and low-self-worth, and instead of caring for ourselves we often fall into self-destructive patterns. How can we love others as ourselves if we do not feel lovable?

But once we realize that God loves us as we are—without condition, that God understands our personal issues, and that God desires the good for us—then we can see ourselves as God sees us and begin to really love ourselves in a wholesome and positive way.

Truly loving ourselves is quite different from selfishness. Selfishness reinforces self-destructive attitudes and behaviors, while reflection on God’s love gives us empathy, compassion, and care for ourselves. And it is only when we care for ourselves appropriately that we can effectively love others.

So let God help you to love yourself.

Continuing by Loving Those Closest Around Us

As we begin to love ourselves, we can better love those close to us in appropriate ways. This includes family, friends, and associates – anyone with whom we have interactive relationships.

There is plenty of opportunity here to express empathy, compassion, and care as we often have friction with people close to us—disagreement, personality conflict, disparagement, competition, manipulation. This can cause us pain and also prevent us from loving them, but it is also a good place to practice empathy, compassion, and care in daily life.

We should remember that God loves them and cares for them—unconditionally—just as he loves and cares for us. Those in our life with whom we have conflict are not enemies; they are fellow humans and we should try to see them as God does.

Focus on empathy. How does the other person see themselves and their situation? What problems or past experiences impact their personality and behavior? (We can also ask these same questions in self-analysis in order to better understand our own motivations).

To have empathy for others is to relate to their humanity, their shortcomings, and their pain. And empathy leads to compassion—the desire to see their situation improve. Compassion leads to care—the desire to help them in their difficulties. Those closest to us provide the best environment in practicing empathy, compassion, and care (love) for others.

Let me say a word about manipulators, abusers, or endless wells of need. These folks need our love, but they might also need professional help or police intervention. While we love them, in some cases we must also set personal boundaries.

Expanding Our Love and Care to Strangers

There are also random strangers all around us. We can’t develop close relationships with everyone we meet, but we can treat people as worthy of God’s love. They may be strangers to us, but they are not strangers to God who cares for them.

The least we can do is be pleasant, friendly, and accommodating. People who need a little help constantly approach my wife. She is tall, so she can get groceries from the top shelf. When asked, she is happy to give directions or provide a bit of information. She treats people as people—all kinds of people, and they seem to know it from her open demeanor.

Sometimes we have tense situations with strangers. A slow driver, or someone cutting into the road ahead of us, can create instant road rage; but rather than assuming bad things about them, empathy will reflect that they could be unfamiliar with the area and are making quick decisions, maybe they need desperately to find a bathroom, or perhaps they are involved in some other crisis. Do we ever face similar situations?

We don’t know what’s going on with other person, and our terrible assumptions of them are often completely off base. And even if our assumptions are correct—what difference does it make? Empathy considers the possibility of a real need. People we encounter are not enemies, they are human—people whom God loves and cares for.

No matter where friction and conflict occurs with strangers, we can respond with empathy, compassion, and care. When people insult us, yell at us, or try to intimidate us, we can still see them as people whom God loves and cares for. We need not do battle with them; they are not our enemies, so we can resist playing that part.

Discovering Those in Special Need of Empathy, Compassion, and Care

Sometimes we encounter those in special need of empathy, compassion, and care within our family, among our neighbors, and in random encounters; but an additional step is to systematically search out those needing help. We can check with our local shelters and food pantries, donate to worthy local, national, and international charities, or become involved as volunteers with helping organizations.

The key is to recognize that God loves everyone as he/she loves us, and we can love them too. We can’t reach out to every person in need, but we can all make a great difference to some. Next time, I will list a number of specific suggestions on loving others as ourselves. Please share your own ideas in the comments, and I will add them to that list.

Go with love!

***

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25 Responses to Loving Others with Empathy, Compassion, and Care this Year

  1. MrsR says:

    Thanks for this Tim – it really hits home for me right now and is a great reminder of where to start. Having empathy, compassion and care for those you love the most seems like the most obvious thing that we do as human beings, but I also find that it’s easy to be mean or hurtful and say things out of spite to those closest to us. Loving yourself I feel has to be one of the hardest things to do sometimes. I look forward to your next blog on this topic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      MrsR, I agree with you that it is easy for us to be mean and hurtful to those closest to us. I guess we have more bad history and are around them more. I think these are the ones with whom we must work the hardest in expressing empathy, compassion, and care.

      Like

  2. Stacy says:

    Please say more about how to feel about people who used to be abusers, and want to go about life normally now. They were never held accountable and I’m having an extremely hard time forgiving them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Stacy, I consider this to be a very important issue, and I am sorry you are faced with this situation. Many of us, as believers, are told to forgive the abuser and restore normal relationships. This sounds like a very Christian thing to do, but it is flawed because abusers and manipulators are not easily changed.

      This misunderstanding of forgiveness is a big reason why abusers are not held accountable–especially in certain churches. The line goes something like: “The abuser repented and asked forgiveness and therefore they are forgiven and there is nothing more to be said. So you, the victim, should forgive them as well so that it is as though the abuse never happened, and if you don’t feel comfortable with that then it is YOU who has the spiritual problem.”

      This is all wrong! The abuser must be held accountable for what they did. And this might mean reporting them to the authorities and testifying against them in court. Just because a person ‘repents’ does not mean there are no consequences for what they did (and deterrents to what they will likely do in the future).

      I agree that we should forgive our abusers, but this forgiveness is for us; if we maintain hate and bitterness within us it will eat us up, so we must forgive them and let it go. But forgiveness does NOT mean the abuse did not happen or that the relationship should be normalized. Sometimes forgiveness of abusers is most effective with a restraining order.

      Actually, this is a big problem in some churches, and it is common for the abuser to ‘repent’ and remain part of the church, while the abused is ostracized from the church. There are some very good resources for abuse victims. A very good one is Boz Tchividijian at GRACE http://www.netgrace.org. The website includes a blog and, though Boz no longer adds new blog posts, the existing posts are exceptional.

      Depending on your situation and type of abuse, I have additional resources. You might not want to discuss particulars in an open forum, but you are free to email me at tchastain@cfl.rr.com if you would like to talk with me privately.

      I hope you can get some relief from this situation. ~Tim Chastain

      Liked by 1 person

      • Stacy says:

        Thank you, that actually really helps and I’ll look at the other blog too.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Chas says:

        Tim, you are right in recognizing the need for an expression of remorse and preferably a sincere apology from the perpetrator of the wrong they have done, before the victim can begin properly to forgive them. I note, from your choice of words, that you are well aware that people can often say sorry without really meaning it; and how often do we hear what sounds like words of remorse from a perpetrator when they are standing before a judge, although they have only said these in an attempt to reduce their sentence.

        The most remarkable instance of forgiveness that I have ever witnessed came from the abused woman whom I have mentioned already under this item. When she had involved the police in regard to her abuse by her husband, they asked her if she wanted to press charges against him, but she told me that she had refused, because she didn’t want him to suffer (and this despite all of the suffering that he had caused her and he hadn’t even repented!)

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Chas, shallow remorse is often used in order to continue the abuse. But even genuine remorse should be accompanied by some structure of continuing accountability because of the very nature of abusers and manipulators. Forgive but remain diligent, and hold to the boundaries.

          I wonder whether it was wise for your friend not to press charges–especially as the abuse is an ongoing problem.

          Like

  3. Lynne says:

    And it hits home for me as well! Thank you for helping me to think about ways to show more love (the verb kind of love!!) and to slow down and think about others with stronger empathy. I look forward to the suggestions you will include next time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Thanks, Lynne. I hope you like the next post as well. By the way, I love your phrase: “the verb kind of love!!”

      Like

  4. Chas says:

    Tim, I’d like to comment on your remark about: ‘manipulators, abusers, or endless wells of need. These folks need our love, but they might also need professional help or police intervention. While we love them, in some cases we must also set personal boundaries’, this rang a particular bell with me, because I had just returned from talking to someone who is involved in this type of relationship. She is a friend, and her husband has abused her, both violently and sexually, and is also manipulative and controlling. Her situation is made more complex, because she herself is an endless well of need, partly through her cultural background, but also because of depression. She has had both professional help and police intervention, but is unable to take the decision to break away from her husband, so her suffering goes on. I feel powerless to help her; all that I can do is to listen to her and offer advice when I can. However, it seems to help her somewhat just to have someone to speak to, because her husband has succeeded in isolating her from all their former friends and even from their daughters!

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Chas, I am sorry to hear of your friend’s situation–and it does sound doubly complicated as these things often are. Sometimes we are powerless to help substantially because people have not decided to receive genuine help or don’t know how.

      But I am glad you are able to help by listening. I am sure that makes a difference to her.

      Like

  5. Amy says:

    Excellent well written article, Tim. Some see empathy as a weakness; I see it as a strength. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Amy, I know you are right that some see empathy as a weakness. Many of these people think in terms of ‘winning’ against their ‘enemies’. Empathy does not help achieve that need.

      Like

  6. Debi says:

    Love this post, Tim. Reposting on Jesus House Western Maryland (facebook).

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: 48 Short, Specific Suggestions on Loving Others as We Love Ourselves | Jesus Without Baggage

  8. Pingback: Why ‘Love the Sinner; Hate the Sin’ is Opposite to Jesus’ Teaching | Jesus Without Baggage

  9. luckyotter says:

    This gives me a little hope during these dark times.

    Liked by 1 person

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