Monday, May 3, 2010

Empathy

I've been struggling lately....not with the HLHS diagnosis, not with fear, not with worry. I've been struggling with empathy.

With so much going on in our life, my initial reactions to others has not been the most God pleasing.

Here is what I mean. I work in our church's clothing ministry. We have customers come into our store almost hourly with this and that wrong....so and so did this, or that happened.....most of which are big issues. There are hurting people who walk through our doors and I truly and genuinely care about each and every one of them. My heart breaks for them and I am willing to listen for as long as they want to talk.

However, since this HLHS diagnosis, I find myself comparing issues. I know deep down at the core of my being that my problems really aren't bigger than theirs. It's all a matter of point of view. My problems are no better or worse than anyone elses. Just different. BUT.....I'm having a hard time remembering that. I find it hard to remind myself that my life is not THE ONLY life that has BIG problems.

I'm having a hard time empathizing with people. Their problems seem so minor to me. Yet, like I said, I know deep down that is not the case.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I also don't like when people flat out say "I know this is nothing in comparison to what you are going through....." Yes, we have some big hurdles that we will have to jump in the next few months and years. Yes, we are hurting. Yes, crap keeps piling up to the point of giving me panic attacks.....BUT, do not EVER feel like you can't talk to me because your issues aren't "as big as ours."

How do I get past this? How do I continue hurting for others when I feel so broken and hurt myself? How do I listen and care without down playing other people's feelings or problems? How do I pray for others when I'm so overwhelmed with prayer for our family? Some days I feel like I have nothing left to give yet I know the only way to survive is to continue giving.

3 comments:

Christine said...

Sometimes you just get full. It doesn't mean that you don't care. Your cup runneth over, and not in a good way. But really, that's OK. You are a human, you acknowledge the issue and you keep trying. Its ok to be kind to yourself right now. I don't think its that you are comparing the issues and finding theirs lacking as you are probably simply unable to handle any more. The thing about empathy is that you have to have the emotional reserves to be able to express it. I've had moments recently where I'm listening to someone get completely irate over tiny little things and I'm like "seriously, you think that's a problem" *BOGGLE* but to her, it was. I get that... I work hard to keep that in mind. But there are times when my cup runneth over, and then I have to wait until there is more room. It's ok... to take a step back when you are full and forward again when you are able.

Amy said...

I just posted a long response and Blogger errored out when I hit post. But long story short: When I was 32 weeks pregnant with my son, one of my closest friends lost her twin girls at 19-weeks due to incompetent cervix. Then five weeks later when I was 37 weeks, I lost my sister unexpectedly. I found that I didn't have the strength to grieve for both of us, nor could I be a good support person for my friend anymore, because I could barely hold myself upright. I was trying to adjust to becoming an only child and a new Mom all in two weeks time. I lost the ability to pray, because I had no idea what to pray for. I had no words. One day, my neighbor showed me Romans 8:26: "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express." It was exactly what I needed to hear. I had no strength, no words, yet I was being prayed for anyway, as was my friend. I didn't have to try to be everything to everyone. I don't know if this gives you any comfort at all, but it was a huge blessing to me to be reminded of that. I allowed myself to grieve and feel the feelings that went along with my situation.

nabrissa said...

Be gentle, showing consideration for all. - Titus 3:1-2 NAS
i was going to post this in my notes, last week,...i'd felt the urge to share, maybe it was partly for you, i don't know... i'd pasted it on my fb notes and then before i could send it etc... i had to leave immediately, or i would've been uber late for work so i didn't and then i forgot...

"Be gentle, showing consideration for all. - Titus 3:1-2 NAS

None of us escapes adversity; Jesus told His disciples, '...In this world you will have trouble...' (John 16:33 NKJV). But Verdell Davis writes, 'Though we may endure the same disease, broken relationships, disability and failure, trying to compare sufferings is to ignore the unique dynamics of each individual life. To listen to stories in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting where all are brought together by their common addiction is to find that each pain, each heartache, each loss, each interplay of relationships is highly charged with some twist no one else in the room has experienced in quite the same way. We must resist seeing our own sorrows as more devastating or less important than someone else's. Mine are unique to me, and if I'm going to deal with them honestly and openly, I must accept that what's going on, deserves my respect.'

Paul writes, '...be... gentle, showing... consideration for all...' (Titus 3:2 NAS). Respect the differences between yourself and others, even when you've been through a similar experience. Don't barge in with a three-point sermon and a pre-planned speech. 'The wise are known for their understanding, and pleasant words are persuasive' (Proverbs 16:21 NLT). You can't go wrong with somebody who's hurting by simply showing up, giving them a hug, letting them know you care and that you're praying for them. It may be clich├ęd, but it's still true: people don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care! You don't demonstrate the love of God by being pushy, opinionated and acting like a know-it-all. You only do so by being '...peaceable, gentle, reasonable, [and] full of mercy...' (James 3:17 NAS)."

it's another one of those bob gass email devos i get... :)

 
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