In a very self-centered world, empathy is a quality that is getting lost. Yet Jesus taught us many times to take this attitude. And for someone single, practicing empathy now can ensure the success of a future marriage.
We react to situations or respond to discussions with our interests in mind. Thinking of ourselves is always our first reaction because it is that of the flesh, that of pride. But if we want to be Christians, that is, if we are to be like Christ in this world, of course, we have to put our littles selves aside and develop empathy (Luke 10:30-37).
According to the Webster dictionary, empathy means: “being aware of, being sensitive to the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another”. It’s, in a way, learning to read between the lines when someone interacts with us. For example, at work, if you come up with a new idea in a group meeting and one of your coworkers has a bad attitude and finds all the flaws in your idea. How are you going to react? Will you be offended by their reaction and ready to vigorously defend your idea by attacking them verbally? This would be a very proud reaction, which seeks to defend its little self. Yet Jesus taught us to break this attachment to our image by being ready to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39).
The empathy that Christ would ask us to show in a situation similar to that mentioned above would be to show, on the contrary, an interest in the welfare of the colleague in question. It would be to think, “Why are they reacting so fiercely? Are they okay?” To be like Christ would be to make our points politely during the meeting, and then to go and talk privately to that colleague to see if they are okay, if they have any personal problems that we could pray for, or help with. It is putting others before yourself, as Paul said. “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (Philippians 2:3 NKJV).
Colossians 3:12 (NKJV) has another beautiful definition of empathy: “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering”. It is a beautiful attitude that is easy to have in church during a time of divine worship. But Christ teaches us to choose this position even in the face of personal attacks, relationship conflicts, or when it seems to put us at a disadvantage. It is this type of love that “patiently accepts all things” as 1 Corinthians 13:7 (NCV) says. That does not mean that we let others abuse us, but it is always being prepared to lose a debate if it can help us win our brother or sister to Christ. And it is when we are like Christ, in word, and conduct, that we are best placed to guide them to salvation.
As a single person, this beautiful personality trait taken directly from the character of Christ will make us more pleasant to be around. Many singles are afraid to say a bad word in front of certain people because they are afraid that the other will be angry and offended. If instead, we are single people who are empathetic, we are not going to reject a clumsy suitor, we are going to read between the lines of their wacky words to see their heart. Practice reading between the awkward lines of a kindhearted suitor, as it will build the ability to discern the evil hearts behind beautiful compliments. Finally, once we are married, empathy will also be an essential tool for the success of our marriage. This will allow us to be less hurt in the face of bitter reactions and will prepare us to consider the interests of others and marriage before our own.
To show empathy, without feeling like a loser, we need to be well established in our relationship with God. We must keep in mind our ultimate goal (our salvation) and constantly remind ourselves of the power of God (to defend us, among other things). We need to be so fulfilled by His presence that we no longer need to protect our little selves. The empathy that Christ taught us to have begins in our knees and takes a lot of practice! So, let’s not wait!