Most people have heard of the word sympathy. Simply put, sympathy is when we have common feelings of sadness or pity for and with someone else. Empathy has similar beginnings as sympathy, but it’s quite different. While sympathy suggests that you share the feelings of someone else because of a similar experience, empathy implies that you have the capacity to imagine the feelings someone else had, but you haven’t actually felt them yourself.
It’s easy to sympathize with someone because we’ve walked through the same thing, but empathy requires a bit of work on our part. It’s definitely not something most people grasp or do. But, in order to navigate relationships with others with whom we don’t see eye to eye, we have to work at this important quality.
Listen With Purpose
When we take the time to hear other people out, we value them by showing love and respect. As we truly listen to them, we can learn why they believe what they do. This helps us to get a glimpse into their lives. As we’re listening, it’s unwise and shows immaturity to come up with our rebuttal while they’re talking. It’s important to truly listen and think about what you hear the person saying. Drafting our response while they’re still talking is like preparing to debate them. The thing we want to look for in this kind of scenario is that the two people coming together value each other more than they care about being right.
Consider Their Stance
Learning someone’s reasons will help us see their view and keep us from judging too quickly. If someone shares the “why” behind why they believe in something you don’t, consider the background they’re sharing. People often land on their worldviews and stances because of their upbringing, which includes both positive and negative experiences. Maybe the two of you don’t see eye to eye on government aid to the less fortunate. When we allow ourselves to step into their world, for even just a few minutes, we’re less likely to be annoyed and show judgment.
Empathy is a key component to a healthy relationship. Expressing it allows us to see the person for who they are, to understand a different point of view, and to ultimately represent Jesus well to those who don’t know Him.