What Would Jesus Do to Help Those Who Have Trouble with Empathy?
There is a well-known saying that you don’t know what another person’s life is like until you, “walk a mile in their shoes.” In short, this is what empathy is. It helps us understand others from their own perspectives; it means having the capacity to interpret another’s feelings and offer them the help they may need.
When someone lacks empathy, or has trouble with it, it would seem natural that Jesus would take steps to help that person, but just exactly what would he do? Jesus would probably steer that person towards activities that can help them learn how to empathize with others, such as:
- Helping them learn to really listen to others, and actually hear what they are saying. Many people will already be thinking of what they want to say next in a conversation and pay little to no attention to what the person who is speaking is saying. By really listening to a person, someone can often pick up a little about who they are and how you might identify with what they might need.
- Helping them learn to mimic the behaviors of others. Doing this is tantamount to walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. In mirroring someone else’s behavior, a person can experience situations from a different point of view, and hopefully develop an appreciation for people who see things differently from them.
- Getting them to focus their attention on the world around them and not being so self-centered. Being more intentionally aware of one’s surroundings makes it much easier to naturally absorb the outward behavior of the people around them, and maybe help them tune into what is going on in their heads. In turn, they may eventually start responding to this behavior in a positive way, leading to feelings of empathy.
- Making them more aware of the news of the world and the suffering that is taking place everywhere, every day. Paying more attention to the news can be as easy as watching TV. In doing so, people can, again, “walk a mile” in someone else’s shoes, and hopefully start to gain an appreciation for what others are going through. When they then see similar situations taking place around them, or even with their friends or family, they slowly may begin to take action to encourage them, or even pitch to help them out.
- Putting a face on human suffering. No one deserves to suffer. People who are suffering most likely need some help, or empathy, in getting through a rough situation, and by personalizing that suffering in some way, another person may be better able to see how they could help, instead of just standing by, or turning a blind eye.
There are many ways to help someone gain empathy for others, but the person being helped needs to be receptive to that help, or the effort can end up being merely an exercise in frustration. But that person may respond to the help being offered, and eventually begin to empathize with others. In that respect, then any effort that Jesus had made would have contributed to achieving his goals and adding more, much-needed, empathy to a troubled world.