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Empathy in the individual is a massively important quality. Though it is a felt kind of trait, not strictly related with intelligence quotient, I think it is a cornerstone in the development of intelligence. Here’s why. When we have the capacity of feeling for others, we truly connect with our world and the fiasco of self is ended. At least that is the theory!But empathy isn’t the end of it. It’s just the beginning. Once our empathy is acquired it doesn’t stay with us statically; it can grow or rescind. We may develop it, but the tricky thing is we can also grow our skill for tapping artificially into it. In other words, we can learn to fake it. Anyone can appear caring. We need to be suspicious about those who appear as caring without actually feeling moved. But the truth is that’s me. There’s a darkness in me to be able to continue as a pastor and counsellor and not be traumatised. Some would call it a thick skin. I know I’m capable of feeling enormous empathy, but it’s moderated hugely now by my mind.
Of a sense, I can control it. On one level such control is good. It helps me do my job. But at another level I feel cut off from what I could possibly be feeling. Or, I mourn the fact that I’m not as emotional as I once was or upset by things many other people are. In a weaker moment, I can truly wonder if there is darkness in me to the degree that my conscience is somewhat seared. But I know what I think, and that convinces me – my thinking conveys reprehensibility for the things that would otherwise gut me. See how there is the entrance into the reality of my darkness. I’m not afraid of finding out how dark my soul could be. It would trouble me where I was to find darkness. And it has. But it only troubles me to the degree that I am impelled to do something about it. Yet this is just one example. I am still vulnerable in areas where I think I’m right, where I could be wrong, where pride can still be the predictable initial response.
Pride is never too far away as an immediate response I must be awake to. Pride driven of fear that I’m not, in fact, all that I think I am. Still, there are hidden darknesses that I am yet to be made aware of that elicits the prayer, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner. ‘You may have heard the song The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel, which says, ‘A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest. ‘ This is so true to our human nature, that we cannot see what others see, and what others see we disregard, because we can only see our truth, and it forever polarises us in conflict with others who disagree. We are forlorn to war and battle and to decry justice and to fight for ‘justice’, and the biggest irony of all is the supposed social justice warrior insists they are right, and if only things were turned their way all would be right with the world. Sorry, I don’t buy it. Yet, there are those on the Right who cannot bear that they also might be wrong. I see so much at the polarities that is untrustworthy.
Both sides manipulate truth to satisfy their need and prop up their position. Could it be possible that we are all wrong? If all of us could be wrong, and if only God can truly be right, all the time, what might that convince us to do? The trouble is, especially in the Christian world, we tend to think that God is on our side, when there are other Christians who see the world differently and believe God is on their side. Could it be possible that we are both partially right? If that is true, we are both partially wrong, as well. Where does all this thinking lead us?Hopefully it leads us to the place of bringing our sinful opinionatedness to the cross, to confess our need of Jesus, and to repent toward the possibility of those truths that we cannot yet see.
All we need to do is acknowledge that we cannot see everything. We can only fix ‘us’ in Jesus’ name. The ‘other’ is the Holy Spirit’s project. Imagine this scenario: standing before God’s Judgment Seat on the day we finally meet Him. We hear the record of our lives. Together with our record as it is read out, we hear others’ records read out; those whose lives paralleled ours, and especially, as it pertains to this topic, we hear those records of those people we might praise and despise. Gradually we are enlightened as we listen, and begin to comprehend the facts we never knew, which are the things we always did that we thought were right but that weren’t wholly right, and those things that others did that we thought were wrong, that weren’t wholly wrong. We hear the record of this other person we could not forgive, and for the first time in our lives we see how truly lovable they are, because the perception of God is added to us. We begin to see who they actually are from the experiences that had shaped their lives. And suddenly there is a sense of remorse, because we did not, or chose not to, see what we could have always seen if only we had been openhearted. In the immediacy of this moment, suddenly God makes us angelic to the point that all our eyes can see is truth, and from that truth is the full portion of grace, because, for the first time in our lives, we understood that grace can only be understood and extended from the perspective of the fullness of truth.
Then, after seemingly a long silence and pause,God speaks these words gently:’You seem surprised, My son/daughter. ‘Did you not assume that you too had blind spots? Did you not plan for this day? Did you assume all along that you had read me right, whilst thinking all along others who love me read me all wrong? Did you assume that the moment you pledged yourself to Jesus resolved your sin in its entirety? Were you not concerned at all that from the moment you pledged to follow My Son that you did not grow as much as you ought to have? Do you arrive here imagining you are at the top of the hierarchy of mortals in heaven? Did you live your life that way? Of course, you are thinking right now, “You know it all, God, so I really have no defence. ” Of course, the prosecution rests, for My questions of you are not judgment as you think they are Judgment. Until now you have been geared to think of everything against your view as judgment. I offer these rhetorical questions to you to bring you to the truth that causes repentance, which is an eternal commitment to and commission for the truth. ‘My Grace has covered you; you are loved and you are mine, but I would not love you if I did not bring this truth to you. Now, enjoy my heavenly kingdom, knowing you can only now do good and be good to all. ‘What if our world was suddenly full of people, every single one of us, who saw immediately where we were wrong, instead of being right all the time? Of course, this is not a picture of earth, it is a picture of heaven on earth, but not of the new heaven and earth where there will be no wrong.
Could it be our opportunity, here as we live our lives, to live with our wrongness at the forefront of our awareness, as the principal modus operandi for living at peace with everyone, so far as it depends on us?I started this article talking about empathy. If we, ourselves, do not have empathy we have no hope of realising the potential that God stowed in us from the beginning. Please do not think this is referring to anybody else but yourself. It is so common for each of us to think about how others lack empathy or exude it too much, without facing the question for ourselves. This is your time. This is your question. Before the Lord of all the Ages. This could be your opportunity to truly ask how devoted you are to truly following Jesus. What a golden opportunity it is, before your time, and mine, is up. It is up to us to tell on our darkness before the darkness tells on us. It’s time to be honest and to ascribe honesty as our covenant of allegiance to Christ.
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