The Poverty of Empathy
Our world is filled with a poverty of empathy.
Poverty. Less commonly discussed as, "the state of being inferior in quality or insufficient in amount (oxford languages)."
This type of verbiage became known to me after hearing Senator Cory Booker share these thoughts:
“America is materially rich yet simultaneously has too much material poverty. What made this and other negative conditions persist, he believed, was an insidious poverty of understanding, a poverty of empathy. People's inability to see what is going on in the lives of their fellow citizens, to understand what so many Americans endure, creates an atmosphere that allows injustice to fester and proliferate.” - Source here
As we search for answers in a hurting world, our response is often to discredit the pain of others because we don't understand or we don't agree with it. However, I don't see this as Jesus' response.
Jesus shared the story of the Good Samaritan (read here), challenging individuals to care for those who are hurting without knowing the full back story of their pain... even if
they disagree profusely.
"Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." - Galatians 6:2
Weeping With Those Who Do:
At some point, we mixed up the belief that in order for us to grieve, lament, and empathize with those who are hurting, we must first agree that their hurt is justified or relatable.
Jesus wept even though He knew He could and would raise Lazarus from the dead (see John 11:35). Jesus showed us that there is something more going on with empathy than simply truth, correctness, or relatability. Jesus could have chosen to condemn and mock those who were weeping about Lazarus, but instead, He joined them. He taught us that empathy and compassion leave indescribable impacts on those we weep with.
I do not know the pain of losing a mother, yet I weep with those who do.
I do not know the exhaustion of enduring or losing someone to COVID-19, yet I weep with those who do.
I will never know the brutality of racism or the pain black people have endured for 400+ known years, yet I weep with those who do.
I do not know the battle of cancer, yet I weep with those who do.
I do not know the fight for my life because of drugs or alcohol, yet I weep with those who do.
I do not know the burdens of poverty, yet I weep with those who do.
It takes very little energy for us to lament and empathize with those who are hurting. What if we loved people like Jesus did and let God work out the details?
I close with this quote from C.S. Lewis:
“Talk to me about the truth of religion and I'll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I'll listen submissively. But don't come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don't understand.” - A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis