Empathy is defined by Webster as "the feeling that you understand and share another person's experiences and emotions; the ability to share someone else's feelings." And I say, YES YES YES.
Recently, I have come to realize just how vital empathy is to relationships. I would go as far to say, it is the oxygen to relationships--without it, death is immanent. I have seen this in a few different areas. I've learned that I need to first listen to and choose to empathize with my friends who walk the challenges and realities of life as a black man/woman in America. My friendships will have no depth, truth, or real meaning if I am not engaging with their emotions and struggles. I've learned that I need to hear and empathize with my husband, especially when we are in conflict. That is how he knows I care for and respect him! And I have learned that as I walk through the daily challenges that are MOTHERHOOD, I NEED EMPATHY.
This week was a hard one, in a lot of ways. In summary there was projectile spit-up, leaky diapers, refusal to wear a diaper, disobedience, fits, messes, hitting, crying, a constant need to be held, refusal to sleep, all topped off with an often impatient Mama. I texted my husband throughout the day with updates of how hard the days were feeling. I vented a lot in quick snippets via social media. And as I look back wondering, "why did I advertise how ridiculously hard this week was? why did I involve my Facebook friends in my challenging days?" I came to the conclusion that I was seeking empathy. AND I GOT IT. I was so encouraged to read comments from other moms--some who are also in the thick of it, and others who were able to say "this too shall pass." In my venting, I just needed to hear someone else say, "I've been there, too. I know how you feel. I am so sorry. And, there is hope." Because most days, I spend the majority of my awake time with little humans, not rational, emotionally mature adults. My heart needed comfort that only can be found in the verbal embrace of another: empathy.
I can't imagine I am the only one who has longed for this. How in your life have you sought the life giving words "I know how you feel" from another? How can you seek to grow in empathizing with others in your life? Lead with a desire to hear, understand, and feel with. It will change your relationships!