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Teaching Empathy

As a parent, you certainly want to raise empathetic children. You want to see them grow into people who have an ability to understand and relate to the experiences of others. You want them think about how others feel and do their best to honor them above themselves.

It’s not an easy job for a parent, especially when the kids are young. We can preach about it all we want, but if our own actions don’t line up, it likely falls on deaf ears. “Do as I say, not as I do” is, as you well know, not an effective strategy.

Well, my wife gave me a lesson in walking out this concept last week. On our way home from church, we were “discussing” who would go in to the restaurant to pick up the food we had already called in. I definitely didn’t want to, so I played the “I’m driving” card. So, she took on the responsibility. Afterwards, we saw God’s hand in that decision.

Waiting at the bar, she engaged with an older gentleman sitting there. (Had I been there, I’m sure I would’ve avoided any conversation in an attempt to get in and out as fast as possible).

They began talking. This man was alone, wearing a hat indicating his military service. My wife thanked him. He immediately opened up to her about his family and his struggles, almost as if he were just waiting for someone to talk to him.

Loneliness is so hard. And, it became painfully clear that this man, whose wife was gone, whose children were distant or not as close to him as he would want, was hopelessly lonely. My wife was obviously burdened and had him write down his name and information on a napkin so we could pray for him.

It was a great reminder for me, especially as we just celebrated Veteran’s Day here in the United States. Don’t just talk about it, be about it. I was reminded that we shouldn’t just say things like “thank you for your service” or “I’m praying for you,” but we should do something to live it out. If we don’t, they could just be empty words. When we learn to truly empathize, understanding what another person is going through, I believe God will allow us to see them as He sees them. And, when that happens, I think we can’t help but find tangible ways to impact their lives.