Living with Empathy: Perspective

Empathy Thoreau quote

Earlier this week, I think my husband fully understood what it was like to be married to a disabled person. Don’t get me wrong, I have warned him plenty of times how my body could respond in certain situations. But, I knew he wouldn’t fully get it until he lived through it.

Well, a couple days ago, we had one of the worst, craziest thunderstorms. I am pretty sure I woke up at least three times and was quite scared throughout the whole night. Each time I woke up, I instantly latched on to my husband and didn’t let go until I did so in my sleep.

The moment in my life reminded me of a simple, yet profound truth someone once told me, “Many people have a perspective. Few have the perspective.” Hearing those words in a season of life filled with much hurt was such an encouragement. They showed truth and grace.

Prior to earlier this week, my husband had a perspective of what it would be like sleeping beside his disabled wife during a huge thunderstorm. But, now, he has the perspective. He now has a significant moment in time he can recall that he learned from. He no longer has a vague, distant idea filled with “What if or maybe.” He has, “This happened and here is how I responded.”

There are countless of other situations in our lives that are just like that. I say this to be a word of encouragement for some and a stern call to others. We live in a society where people frequently say, “I know how you feel. I completely understand.” Or, they may say something completely different like, “You cannot let this situation or person completely affect you that much.” Neither statement is wrong. There are a time and place for both.

The important thing is knowing when to say one over the other. It’s important to be discerning of the people around you. It’s being able to admit, “I really do not have any idea how you feel or what you are going through.” It’s knowing that, in the grand scheme of it all, you may not be of much help to the person in their time of need or even joy.

Another person once told me, “Every experience people go through, whether good or bad, is an experience completely unique to themselves.” Their feelings, thoughts, or attitudes about a situation could be completely different than the person sitting right beside them. That is not bad either. It’s honest. No person is the same as someone else, so why would he or she respond the same way? That’s not humanly possible.

God created us to be beings who share with others. He created us to be encouragers. He created us to be listeners.

Instead of saying you understand, say “I am here to listen.” Instead of saying, “You cannot let one person affect you in that way,” say, “I am sorry that is impacting you in this way.” Yes, it is good to share wisdom with others. That wisdom very well could be to not dwell on the past or person. But, the point is, sometimes you won’t know what to say or how that person feels until you live through it. And learn to be okay with that.

The recent trial in my life continues to teach me lessons about God and His perfect timing. He showed me that He will bring people into your life who understand you, whether it be when you are in the worst of the waves or years down the road filled with tough days working to continuously heal with every new milestone.

The point is He will bring people into your life who truly understand. And He will bring people into your life who may not truly understand, but will diligently and wholeheartedly listen. He will provide as He deems fit.

No matter who you are in the equation, let Him guide you. Don’t try to be the person who understands if you are called to be the listener. Don’t just sit and listen if you truly feel led to say, “I really actually understand. Here is the time in my life that this very situation you came to me about happened. Here is how I responded.” Listen to His nudge and obey His call.




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