I used to get sympathy and
empathy confused. Sympathy is when we feel bad for someone; empathy is when you
try to understand how someone else feels. The following scripture from the
Letter to the Hebrews is from The Message Bible: “Regard prisoners as if you
were in prison with them. Look on victims of abuse as if what happened to them
had happened to you.” (Hebrews 13:1-3)
That is empathy; putting yourself in the place of someone
else to better understand them. Part of
our societal problems stem from our lack of understanding each other. Native
Americans and Latinos are indigenous to this continent, whereas Africans were
kidnapped and forcibly brought here. Each of these groups and many others have
been treated like animals by European invaders.
The injustices inflicted on these societies has left
indelible marks on our entire Nation. Likewise, immigrants from all parts of
the world have often been horribly mistreated by the powers in control of our
Nation and economy at various times in history.
Consider how practicing empathy would change that. If we
really cared about knowing and understanding one another, we would give-up all
stereotypes and biases to encounter one another on a spiritual level. To
understand how someone else feels, we have to give-up our pre-conceived ideas
and be willing to listen; really listen.
By understanding others, we are freed to better
understand ourselves. Often we are blinded by our biases and misunderstandings
of one another. No two humans have ever had the exact same experiences in life,
therefore, each of us has a unique view of the world and our place in it. We do
not live in a vacuum, but we often behave as if we do, or wish we did.
I was raised in a Christian, predominantly Caucasian,
middle class, reasonably well-educated community. I have never been hungry or
homeless. I am not from a historically oppressed ancestry. I have experienced
white privilege all of my life.
These experiences have, in the past, cause me to be
insensitive to the needs and pains of others. It also limited my ability to
appreciate the unique gifts each individual brings to the human story. Perhaps
one of the benefits of our current societal climate is the invitation to
examine our own biases, prejudices, and understandings.
Our Nation is embarking on a new initiative; the quest
for true equality. To heal our Nation, we must all examine ourselves to
determine how we can facilitate the necessary changes in our individual and
societal lives to make equality possible.
We will come through this and be better for it, but it
will be painful for many. May the Great Creator of all bring us wisdom and
Blessings and Peace to You
ST. ANDREW’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
555 E. Third Street | Grove, OK 74344