Healthy Minds, Healthy Souls: On Empathy

I always knew that my career as a psychologist was going to be a blessing; after all, I had always wanted to help people. But one thing I did not expect was how much of a blessing it was going to be in my own life. Working on other people’s happiness has surprisingly taught me so much about my own life, my own relationships and my own pursuit of happiness. I have realized just how large a role our relationships play in finding lasting peace and happiness, for unhealthy relationships can affect even the happiest of people.

The definition of the word Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other person’s frame of reference. If we all worked to put ourselves into someone else’s shoes, it could very well change the nature of our relationships. Empathy is what allows people to feel loved and cared for. Empathy communicates that I care enough about what you are experiencing that I want to understand it and express that understanding to you, so that you feel heard, cared about and loved.

This seems easy, right? Well, then why is this so hard? It’s hard when we are the reason someone else is upset. It’s hard to empathize or validate someone’s feelings when they feel negatively towards something we have done. But, oh, how powerfully helpful this can be for de-escalating someone who is hurt. I challenge you, the next time someone is upset with you, step out of your cause, your agenda and your defense and step into trying to just understand and validate what that person might be feeling. You will be amazed at how stating something as small as, “I can see where you are coming from and I understand how you would have felt that way,” can de-escalate someone who is hurt and increase their ability to now hear you.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:2

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