In the step of Empathy we discuss forgiveness and building effective relationships. We will learn to connect with other people in a way that is focused on their needs, not on ulterior selfish motives of our own. We will be challenged to reach beyond our own desires and see the world through the eyes of other people. Learning to feel more empathy for others can help us in each of these situations.
“Empathy is the capacity to recognize and share feelings, thoughts, or experiences that are being experienced by another person.” The concepts of forgiveness, friendliness, sympathy, and even love begin with a sense of empathy as we seek to connect with the wants and needs of others.
“If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” (Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird)
Many people naturally deal with others in a kind, gentle manner. They act in a way that shows they are truly interested in the people around them. They want to know what those people are going through; how others feel really matters to them. Unfortunately, for many of us, it is distressingly easy to do just the opposite.
We routinely do little things that diminish the energy, enthusiasm, or self-esteem of those around us. We may not notice, or pay much attention to, the effects our actions and words have on others. Without thinking about it, we tear people down rather than build them up, and when we get into arguments our words can be biting or even mean.
These bad habits can have the worst effect on those we are closest to in life. Sadly, it is easiest to hurt the ones we love the most. Too often, we damage those around us when we ignore the concepts in Empathy.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3–4)
The Bible has a lot to say on relationships. Another important passage is when Jesus says:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37–39)
This is one of the most important passages in the entire Bible, and it is emphasized several times. The disciple Matthew’s rendition of this declaration of Jesus is echoed by John Mark (Mark 12:30–31), by the physician Luke (Luke 10:27), by the miraculously converted Paul (Galatians 5:14), and by the brother of Jesus (James 2:8).
Although we have different personalities, we all have an innate need to interact with each other. We are designed to live in relationship with others. We can be more effective on almost any project if we work with others toward mutual goals. Overall, our success and happiness in life are greatly affected by our ability to have positive relationships.