Psychologists understand that having warm and supportive relationships helps people endure bad times. We know how valuable it is for the suffering person to be with others when they experience all sorts of pain, from depression, trauma, to loss of childhood issues. Psychologists cannot remove the difficulty or the painful feelings surrounding them, but being with a person who is struggling can make a huge difference for them. People resolve depressions, anxieties, and even medical problems sooner when they are with individuals who are compassionate and share in the feelings the person is experiencing.
For many years I had the privilege of facilitating a depression and anxiety support group at church with a colleague of mine. One of the many things that people reported to me was how “free” they felt after connecting with others in the group. They shared how they had tried reaching out to others yet often felt misunderstood, alienated, and even ostracized.
It’s human nature to distance ourselves from what we don’t know. Yet, ironically, the very thing that helps ease depression of another is not when we move away, but when we move closer.
The reason for this is simply that connecting with others during difficult times makes the trials more bearable. Relationship and connection are the delivery systems for grace, care, compassion, and understanding, and a host of other good gifts. When these concepts enter our hearts and minds and become a reality to us, we come more alive and are able to endure our hurts.
Dr. Brene Brown will show you in this short video the difference between empathy and sympathy:
“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.” 1 John 3:14
“The aim of God in history is the creation of an all-inclusive community of loving persons, with Himself included in that community as its prime sustainer and most glorious inhabitant.” Dallas Willard
Oh dear friends, God has great empathy for you! He reaches inside you and feels compassion for what you are experiencing.
“When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” Matthew 9:36.
Why is empathy so important? Other than the healing, connecting, and redemptive attributes that it has, it’s most significant:
because your being like Jesus.
What can you do today to be more empathic? More selfless? More like Jesus?
Christy Demetriades, Ph.D.