Empathy: the ability to understand another person’s feelings and feel with them and for them. It is a beautiful characteristic to have. And it is a wonderful foundation for any relationship.
When you put yourself in someone’s shoes from the start – when you truly love your neighbor as yourself – your relationship begins with Godly love, and that’s a great beginning.
Recently, a summer intern started in my department at work, and she is SO excited to be here. Even though she is new and doesn’t know anyone, she is enthusiastic about doing her best in the position. She reminds me of me just a month ago when I first started. Eager to be apart of an amazing organization, I was ready to jump in head-first on my first day.
Being bored on your first day of work is not a great way to start off the new journey. I thought of this as the intern settled in to what would be her new home for the next 10 weeks: her office cube. The welcome lunch was over, and we all went back to checking things off our long to-do lists and accomplishing our busy schedules. And then I thought about her sitting there with little direction and nothing to do but go over some “reading materials.” Boring.
So, I made a point to introduce myself in more detail, engaging her in conversation. I found projects for her to start working on and made sure she had access to everything she needed to do the job well. And I gave her my phone number at the end of the day, so she would know she’s not alone in this new city.
I did this because I’ve been in her position. It was easy to “put myself in her shoes” because sometimes it feels like we’re wearing the same pair. Just last week, when my car wouldn’t start and I couldn’t get to work, I wished I would have known someone who lived close by that could take me to work or bring me dinner when I didn’t have any transportation.
It was empathy that made me so attentive to her.
Empathy is a great thing to exude in every type of relationship. And here’s why:
Empathy shows you care.
Being able to not only listen to someone share their feelings but actually go deeper with them, take on their feelings as your own, and love them from that place isn’t always quick and easy. So when you do it, it shows the other person you truly care about them, their experiences, and their life.
Empathy shows you understand.
People want to be understood, to know they are not alone, that someone understands what they’re going through – both the good and the bad. You can be that person.
Empathy shows you’re safe.
In this world, many of us are just looking for safe people – trustworthy, kind, considerate, sincere, genuine people. And showing empathy embodies all of these characteristics. For the intern, I instantly became a “safe” place for her to go to when she had a question or needed help.
Scripture tells us to always think of others before and above ourselves. One way to do this is to think about how you would feel in the other person’s situation, what you would want and how you would want to be treated. Remember the time you were in a similar situation, and truly treat other people the way you would have wanted to be treated.
This is empathy. And it is a beautiful foundation.
Photo by @nesabymakers on @unsplash