What Is Empathy?

Finally, all of you have unity of mind, fellow feeling, brotherly affection, tender compassion, and humility.

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One dictionary says that empathy is the “identification with and understanding of another’s situation, feelings, and motives.” It has also been described as the ability to put oneself in the other fellow’s place. So empathy requires first of all that we comprehend the circumstances of someone else and second that we share the feelings that those circumstances provoke in him. Yes, empathy involves our feeling another person’s pain in our heart.

The word “empathy” does not appear in the Bible, but the Scriptures do refer indirectly to this quality. The apostle Peter counseled Christians to show ‘fellow feeling, brotherly affection and compassion.’  The Greek word rendered “fellow feeling” literally means “to suffer with another” or “to have compassion.” The apostle Paul recommended similar sentiments when he exhorted fellow Christians to “rejoice with people who rejoice; weep with people who weep.” Paul added: “Be minded the same way toward others as to yourselves.” And do you not agree that it would be practically impossible to love our neighbor as ourselves if we did not put ourselves in his place?

Most everyone has a degree of natural empathy. Who has not been moved when seeing heartrending images of starving children or distraught refugees? What loving mother can ignore the sobbing of her child? But not all suffering is readily discernible.

How difficult it is to comprehend the feelings of someone who is experiencing depression, a concealed physical impediment, or even an eating disorder—if we have never had such problems ourselves! Nevertheless, the Scriptures show that we can and should develop fellow feeling toward those whose circumstances we do not share.

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~ by DJ Camstar on 28/08/2016.

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