There is a drastic difference between Empathy and Sympathy.
In this short video Dr Brené Brown describes the differences very well.
As believers we need to get good at empathy. Empathy is described as an instruction, the great law of the New Testament in these simple words: "Love your neighbor as yourself".
Empathy requires listening, not to formulate a response, but listening to feel what the speaker is feeling. We have been trained to form opinions, defences and responses while we listen. We have to unlearn that if we want to love biblically. We have to become good at suspending our judgement for the sake of feeling what the other person is feeling.
At Lazarus' tomb in John 11 there were a lot of responses that Jesus could have had:
- "I was busy, I couldn't come."
- "At least you still have your sister."
- "You should have gotten him to a doctor earlier."
- "Hs death is a result of sin in the world."
Instead Jesus simply wept. Because He felt for them, he had empathy.
The response of the 3rd party observers is critical to see: (v36) "So the Jews were saying, "See how He loved him!"…"
If those outside the church don't see how much we love each other, then what would convince them to question their own faith.
In this video Dr Brown ends off by saying, "rarely if ever does a response make things better, what makes things better is a connection." How very very true.